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Doctoral Degree Programs

Doctor of Education Leadership

America needs transformative leaders in preK–12 education whose passion for education quality and equity is matched by a knowledge of learning and development, the organizational management skills to translate visionary ideas into real-world success, and a firm grasp of the role of context and politics in shaping leadership. Graduates of the three-year, multidisciplinary Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program — taught by faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School — are uniquely prepared for system-level leadership positions in school systems, state and federal departments of education, and national nonprofit organizations.

Ed.L.D. is a full-time, three-year program built on a cohort learning model. Cohorts consist of up to 25 students from diverse professional backgrounds (including district/charter management leaders, nonprofit directors, principals, teachers, and policy researchers) who progress through the program together. In Ed.L.D. you will understand that the ambitious goal of transforming preK–12 education will not be accomplished by one individual alone, but by a diverse movement of leaders in school systems, government, and education-focused organizations. All students receive a full tuition funding package plus stipends, work opportunities, and a paid third-year residency at a partner organization.

The Ed.L.D. program prepares graduates to do work for the public good in the American public education sector, whether that be at the system or state level. Specifically, the program is designed to accelerate the progress graduates make toward achieving meaningful impact in influential roles and/or crossing boundaries in the following spaces in the public education sector:

  • PreK-12 district or CMO leadership roles: Superintendent of Schools, Chief Academic Officer and/or Deputy Superintendent.
  • Foundation/Philanthropy roles: Director, President and CEO, Senior Fellow
  • Education nonprofit roles: President or Executive Director of backbone or collective impact organizations which support preK–12 schools. Ed.L.D. graduates will lead education nonprofits that explicitly focus on improving outcomes and opportunities for children, families, and communities.
  • State or federal education leadership roles: Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner roles. Could also include public education advocacy or education policy advisors to senior government officials.
  • Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation roles: Founder, CEO, President

Curriculum Information

The Ed.L.D. curriculum is a balance of multidisciplinary coursework and practice-based learning. Core courses and electives are taught by recognized leaders from across Harvard’s graduate programs in fields like data-based education reform, organizational change and innovation, and effective leadership strategies for urban schools. You will develop and test your leadership skills through team projects and an immersive third-year residency.

Year One

All students in the cohort take the same classes in four foundational content areas: learning and teaching, leadership and organizational change, politics and policy, adult development, and leadership inside and out (including one-on-one executive coaching). Courses taken during the first-year focus on practice-based learning and serve as the framework of your first-year experience.

Sample HGSE Courses
  • Leading Change
  • How People Learn
  • Evidence
  • Ed.L.D. Proseminar
  • Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Learning
  • Race, Equity, and Leadership
  • Practicing Leadership Inside and Out
  • Sector Change
  • The Workplace Lab for System-Level Leaders

View all courses in the Academic Catalog.

Year Two

Each cohort member works with program advisers to choose an individualized sequence of electives from any of the Harvard graduate schools. You will work closely with the program faculty and staff during your second year to determine the best match with a partner organization for your third-year residency. Matches are driven by mutual interest between the resident and the partner organization, and each student's career and learning goals and geographic preferences.

Sample HGSE Courses
  • Second Year Practicing Leadership Inside and Out
  • Driving Change 
  • Education Sector Nonprofits
  • Negotiation Workshop
  • Coaching with Equity in Mind
  • Ethnic Studies and Education
  • Deeper Learning for All:  Designing a 21st Century School System
  • Institutional Change in School Organizations, Systems, and Sectors

View all courses in the Academic Catalog.

Year Three

You will take part in a 10-month paid residency at one of our partner organizations. There, you will work on a strategic project which synthesizes your experience and learning into a written Capstone project. You will stay connected to your Ed.L.D. cohort and HGSE through technology and by returning to Harvard periodically for intensive workshops.

Paid Residency 

Our partner organizations include school systems and departments of education, as well as some of the nation's most influential and dynamic nonprofit, mission-based for-profit, and philanthropic organizations.

You will be intentionally pushed out of your comfort zones and asked to work systemically and make a significant contribution to the partner organization. In addition, the residency will provide you with the professional mentoring, practical experiences, and network of connections they need to position themselves as future leaders in the education sector. 

Strategic Project 

You will define (with supervisors from your partner organization) a strategic project on which to focus. You will have the opportunity to lead one or two major efforts on behalf of the organization, such as the creation or implementation of current initiatives. The project allows you to practice and improve leadership skills, add important value to the mission and strategy of the partner organization, work systemically, and hold high-level accountability.


During the residency period, you will produce a written Capstone. The Capstone is a descriptive, analytic, and reflective account of your third-year leadership contributions to a strategic project within an Ed.L.D. partner organization. It is a demonstration of your ability to engage others, develop strategy to successfully address and diagnose challenges, work toward a vision and goals, and learn from the results.

 Sample Topics
  • Accountability, Coherence, and Improvement: Leadership Reflection and Growth in the Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Leadership Development for Entrepreneurial Education Leaders Working to Build Public & Private Sector Support
  • Disrupting Teacher Preparation: Lessons in Collaboration and Innovation Across the Learning to Teach Community of Practice
  • Pursuing Educational Equality for English Language Learners
Sample Summaries 
GSE Theses and Dissertations from Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH)

Program Faculty

Ed.L.D. students learn with renowned faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Kennedy School. Faculty from the three schools share their individual expertise in the Ed.L.D. Program and work collaboratively to provide a challenging and coherent experience for students. The faculty director of the Ed.L.D. Program is Paul Reville, Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration. Faculty who teach in the Ed.L.D. core curriculum and advise Ed.L.D. students include:


How is the third third-year residency determined? Will I get to choose where I go and for whom I work?

You will work closely with Ed.L.D. Program faculty during your second year to determine the best partner organization match for your third-year residency. In ascertaining a match, faculty take a number of factors into account, including a students' career goals and geographic preferences. The program expects that the current list of partners will continue to grow based on organizational and student interest.

The Ed.L.D. Program has partnered with organizations that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in American preK–12 education. The partners are school systems, nonprofit organizations, mission-based for-profit organizations, and government agencies, all pursuing a common goal of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to achieve their full potential. You will work directly with partner organizations in the third-year residency and have some exposure to partner representatives in the first two years of the program. Your work with our partner organizations will be encapsulated in a Capstone, which is descriptive, analytic, and reflective account of the your leadership and contributions to a strategic project. Summaries of Capstones by several members of the first cohort of Ed.L.D. graduates are available in the curriculum section.

Outcomes and Alumni Profiles

Graduates of the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program find positions in system-level leadership in national nonprofits and philanthropies, state and federal departments of education, mission-driven for-profits, and school systems. With a national network, scope of transformational impact, and depth of diverse work experience, alumni of the Ed.L.D. program are helping to change the world. 

Joseph Longbottom

The Longbottom Thesis

Joseph Longbottom finds inspiration in his grandfather’s Harvard thesis

Simone Wright

The Challenges of Curriculum Design

Through her work with the New York City Department of Education, Simone Wright, Ed.L.D.'22, has realized the value of a more user-centered approach to curriculum design.

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Admissions Information

More information about our admissions application requirements and instructions, funding, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. Please email, if you have additional admissions-related questions. Download the doctoral brochure.

Introduce Yourself

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Connect with Program Staff

Learn more about the unique benefits of the Ed.L.D. Program — including full tuition funding — by visiting admissions or attending an admissions event.

Virtual Information Sessions

View the Doctor of Education Leadership recorded virtual information session to learn more about the program from faculty, students, and staff.