EdD/PhD, Community College Leadership

Study Format Online
Program Length 61-67 credits*


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According to the American Association of Community Colleges (2010), community colleges, like many other American institutions, are experiencing a leadership gap as many current leaders retire. Moreover, the leadership skills now required have widened because of greater student diversity, advances in technology, accountability demands and globalization.

This specialization in community college leadership is intended to prepare leaders for service in one of the 1300+ institutions nation-wide serving more than 13 million students. (2012 Fact Sheet, AACC).

It is designed for students who are serving in and preparing for emerging leadership roles within the community college setting. Coursework empowers candidates to advance community colleges toward continued community service and educational excellence.

Offered as a specialization within the EdD and PhD program in leadership, this specialization focuses on the administration/leadership of community and two-year/junior colleges, as well as other post-secondary institutions. It explores and examines the policies, procedures, practices, and institutional issues, and the cultures and systems in which the leaders operate.

Across the curriculum, students will draw upon and build on knowledge and experiences related to their professional work. Additionally, students will be required to hone strong research skills and have a familiarity with evidence-based decision-making.

Grounded in topics related to higher education and community college systems in the United States, this specialization provides opportunities to explore the impact of globalization and technology on the community college system, faculty, staff and students.

Core Competencies

The core leadership competencies endorsed by the American Association of Community Colleges—organizational strategy, resource management, communication, collaboration, community college advocacy, and professionalism—serve as the framework for this degree specialization.

This specialization is designed to enable students to:

  • Understand the complexities of higher education and the organizational and business principles and practices.
  • Understand the complexities of the community college system and two-year institutions.
  • Apply and analyze learning solutions that support and drive the community college and two-year education enterprise, student retention and student success.
  • Strategically support the various stakeholders with informed and judicious decisions.
  • Identify and integrate leadership orientations that align with institutional mission and vision statement.
  • Exercise professional ethical behavior that supports the institutional mission and allocation of resources to support and achieve institutional objectives.

Learning Objectives

In addition to the overall objectives of the Leadership department and its programs, students will acquire the knowledge, skills, and leadership competencies embedded in the program’s specialization in community college leadership.

Students who successfully complete this specialization and program will:

  • Be cognizant of current and emerging trends in higher education, community colleges, and apply one’s knowledge of best practices in support of student retention, academic success, and institutional effectiveness.
  • Appreciate the diverse leadership perspectives in higher education/community college leadership in areas of systems, organizational change, outcomes assessment, and research models for engaging and promoting effective institutions.
  • Integrate current theory and best institutional practices into one’s personal and professional performance to promote institutional health and sustainability.

The doctoral leadership degree specialization in community college leadership prepares graduates for leadership positions in post secondary, community college, junior/two-year colleges, and university systems, as well as state policy and administrative positions. In many instances, graduates will be represented in higher education faculty ranks; mid and senior level administrative positions, and student support services. In addition, this specialization prepares graduates for consulting, training, and development positions as well as state policy development roles.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of professional positions in higher education will continue to experience strong growth, especially as the retirement of current administrators will continue. Two-thirds of the current presidents and other key administrators will be retiring in the next seven to eight years; 62,000 new full-time faculty members will also be needed with this time period.

The specialization in community college leadership helps to prepare students to serve in instructional, administrative, and supportive roles in community college, 2-year colleges and potentially university settings.

Senior leadership career opportunities within the community college setting that rely on advanced degrees include: dean, department chair, faculty leader, director, president, provost, and vice president.

The following is a sampling of potential careers within the community college and two-year setting:

  • Admission officer
  • Academic advisement
  • Academic affairs
  • Academic programming
  • Distance learning
  • Diversity management
  • Enrollment management/student recruitment
  • Finance office
  • Financial aid services
  • Human resources services
  • Instruction
  • Institutional advancement
  • Marketing
  • Registrar office
  • Residential life
  • Retention services
  • Student services
  • Workforce development officer


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