Are you interested in pursuing research on educational leadership

  • using an active social justice framework?
  • from nationally and internationally recognized scholars and practitioners?
  • in a program U.S. News & World Report ranks in the top 20?

The mission of our PK-12 programs is to develop critical leaders, policymakers and scholars who demonstrate excellence in leading educational institutions, implementing and analyzing policy, and enacting social justice.

Our graduates are critical thinkers who effectively respond to the changing landscapes in education. They become leaders in educational organizations and faculty in colleges and universities with strong grounding in quantitative and qualitative methods.

PK-12 doctoral students work closely with faculty on a variety of research projects about black male leadership, desegregation, immigration, influences of school leadership on instruction and learning, nonprofit leadership, politics of language education, and school transformation. As part of their scholarly development, our students also work directly with faculty who have leadership roles at top-tier journals and professional organizations such as:

  • American Journal of Education
  • American Educational Research Association, Divisions A and G
  • American Educational Studies Association, executive council
  • University Council for Educational Administration

Learning Objectives

Through the program, students will gain the knowledge to:

  • Examine the relationship of society and education through a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies;
  • Understand the political context in which educators work and how these relationships play out across local, state and federal levels;
  • Have a strong methodological foundation in qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed methods approaches.

Through the program, students will gain the the skills to:

  • Become critical leaders and scholars in the fields of educational administration;
  • Apply theory to practice in educational leadership;
  • Describe the ways in which leadership roles and processes may be influenced by political ideologies, globalization and cultural diversity;
  • Analyze educational organizations from a variety of perspectives and theories;
  • Conceptualize and complete research projects as an independent scholar.

Degree Requirements


Doctoral candidates complete a minimum of 60 credit hours by selecting courses with their advisers, which will most fully meet their individual needs. At least 16 hours must be taken at the 8000- or 9000-level or above, exclusive of research and independent study hours. The degree includes:

Core Courses in ELPA (12 hours):

  • ED LPA 9400: Social Theory in Education
  • ED LPA 9401: Educational Leadership
  • ED LPA 9402: Educational Policy Analysis
  • ED LPA 9403: Organizational Analysis

Core Courses in Research (15 hours minimum):

  • ESC PS 8850: Quantitative Foundations in Educational Research (or its equivalent)
  • ESC PS 8957L Qualitative Methods in Educational Research I (or its equivalent)
  • ED LPA 9409: Introduction to Research Design
  • ED LPA 9404: Inquiry into ELPA (pro-seminar)
  • One advanced research methods course

Foundations in PK-12 (nine hours):

  • ED LPA 7458: Sociology of Education
  • ED LPA 9462: History of U.S. Education Policy
  • ED LPA 9463: Politics of Education

Focus Areas (18 hours minimum):

Each student will design two focus areas, which must include at least nine credit hours each (three courses). Students are strongly encouraged to take some courses or create one focus area outside of ELPA. Focus areas may cover topics such as social justice and leadership, immigrants and education, or educational reform. Courses taken for graduate certificates, such education policy studies or qualitative research, may be included in a focus area. Other options are described in the ELPA doctoral student handbook.

Dissertation Hours (six hours minimum):

  • ED LPA 9090: Research in ELPA

Learn more about individual courses in ELPA.

Residency and Transfer Credits

Students must complete residency requirements. To do so, they must take either two nine-hour semesters or three six-hour semesters consecutively. A maximum of six semester hours of graduate level graded course work completed at another accredited college or university offering an equivalent degree may be transferred subject to approval by the adviser, the department director of graduate studies and the Office of Graduate Studies. Up to 12 hours earned as a post-baccalaureate graduate student at MU may be applied to the degree pending admission to the program and approval of PK-12 faculty.

Learn more about credit transfer.

Exams and Dissertation

Doctoral students must successfully complete qualifying and comprehensive exams. The format for comprehensive examinations may vary, and is determined by students’ committees. A dissertation and a final defense is also required of all candidates.

Assistantships, Scholarships & Fellowships

ELPA will consider applications for departmental graduate assistantships when funding is available.  These positions are intended for full-time students and involve assisting faculty with research and/or teaching. An offer of a graduate assistantship typically comes with an expectation of 20 hours of work a week, a monthly stipend, and tuition remission. Assistantships must be renewed on an annual basis. Some positions may be for a semester and some for the Fall and Spring. For applicants to receive full consideration, please submit your ELPA assistantship application by January 15 (e.g., submit by January 15, 2025, for an assistantship in 2025-2026).

The College of Education offers a variety of competitive scholarships for newly admitted and continuing graduate students: Mizzou Ed graduate financial assistance.

Top candidates for admission into ELPA graduate programs may be nominated for Graduate School fellowships.



The deadlines for both the application to the program and the ELPA Assistantship Application are January 15th (by 11:59 Central Time).
Coursework begins the Fall semester of the same year.

Admission Requirements

Beginning January 1, 2020, a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is not required for admission.

  • GPA of 3.0 (4.0 scale) in the last 60 hours of undergraduate education from a regionally accredited institution
  • GPA of 3.5 (4.0 scale) in graduate studies (master’s degree) from a regionally accredited institution
  • Evidence of consistency between candidate’s and the program’s goals
  • Minimum scores accepted by the MU Graduate School for TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or the Cambridge C1 Advanced exams for non-native English speakers
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least two of which should be from faculty who instructed or academically advised the applicant). Instructions will be provided through the graduate school application process.

Any exceptions to the above must be justified.

How to Apply

For more information about this program contact us:

Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis