Graduate students

Requirements for Doctoral Degrees: Ed.D.

Policy Number: 100804

Current Policy

Category: Academic » University Requirements

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Requirements for Graduation—Ed.D.

To be eligible to graduate with the Ed.D. degree, students must have been admitted to candidacy and must meet the following requirements:

  • Students must complete an approved program of study beyond the bachelor's degree, totaling at least 90 units of graduate work.

  • Students must complete a dissertation in their area of emphasis. Please note that students may end up taking more units of dissertation (799) credit than they can count toward their degree because students must register for dissertation credit each semester while working on their dissertation and at least 3 units during the term in which they defend.

  • Students must pass a final oral exam (dissertation defense) covering their dissertation. The student's dissertation committee may also require a written comprehensive exam if the student's chair presents evidence of the need for such an exam.

In addition, students must maintain continuous enrollment of at least 3 units per semester (excluding summers), including one face-to-face course (3 units) per academic year. This rule applies until the student has passed comprehensive exams.

The following section describes the general requirements for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs. Find additional information about a specific degree program through Degree Search or by contacting the specific department

Admission Process

Applicants to either of the Ed.D. doctoral programs must first apply for graduate admission at NAU.

Admission to the NAU Graduate School does not constitute admission to either of the Ed.D. doctoral programs.

Curriculum and Instruction

The C & I Doctoral Admissions process consists of four phases:

(1)    Application and acceptance by the NAU Graduate College.

(2)    Recommendations and References

(3)    Submission of the C & I Doctoral Admissions Portfolio.

(4)    Review of application and portfolio by the C & I Admissions Committee

Please see the department website for complete applications requirements and deadlines.

Educational Leadership

The EDL Doctoral Admissions process is completed in three phases:

(1)    Submission of the EDL Doctoral Admissions Portfolio.

(2)    Blind Review of Application Portfolio and

(3)    Possible Open Review of On-Site Writing and Interview.

Please see the department website for complete applications requirements and deadlines.

Residency Requirements

The purpose of doctoral residency requirements is to provide students with opportunities to attend on-campus conferences, presentations, and seminars, and to personally interact with resident faculty and other graduate students.

Students must spend two consecutive semesters of full-time study in residence after they have been admitted to their degree program. Residency is defined as carrying at least 9 units during a semester or carrying 5 units during a summer session. In all cases, the courses students take must be approved by their advisor and program committee. Students can only accrue course credits counting toward this residency requirement after they have been formally admitted to their program.

The specific residency requirements for the Ed.D. degree vary by academic major as follows.

Curriculum and Instruction

After being admitted to a Flagstaff-based program, students can meet the residency requirement in one of two ways:

  1. by completing at least two sequential semesters at Northern Arizona University–Flagstaff, which can include either or both academic-year and summer semesters (two five-week summer terms are equal to one semester); or 

  2. by completing at least two semesters at Northern Arizona University–Flagstaff that are not sequential, which can include either or both academic-year and summer semesters.

Educational Leadership

The NAU Graduate College requires that doctoral students spend time in residence at NAU. This residency should be devoted to scholarly study, research, writing, and professional activities that advance the academic program. Students must satisfy one of two residency plans by either completing at least 24 credit units on campus in Flagstaff as a full-time student, or through a combination of other on-campus coursework, conferences, interaction with faculty and fellow doctoral students, and research. Normally, students must enroll as a full-time student for the semesters, sessions, or workshop terms in which they are earning residency credit.


The Educational Leadership department considers newly admitted students to our doctoral program as participants in a cohort. Students admitted to the program should be aware that their doctoral studies begin the summer after acceptance.

We meet with accepted students to develop a program of study in the Spring. The cohort is usually expected to take classes starting that first summer in a "weekend and web-enhanced" format. This may entail spending two weekends in Flagstaff with additional time on the web for each class taken in the summer. This satisfies the requirement from the graduate college for alternative residency. Taking nine units of coursework in this fashion will qualify the student as full-time-enrolled student during the summer. Students will be required to spend two consecutive summers as a full-time student, thus establishing their residency (i.e., 9 semester credits each summer).

Application for and Admission to Candidacy

Regardless of which Ed.D. degree students are pursuing, students must apply for admission to candidacy after they:

  • have been admitted to the program;
  • complete the courses listed on their program of studies with a grade point average of 3.0 or better;
  • have an approved dissertation committee;
  • complete their residency requirement; 
  • submit an approved dissertation prospectus; and
  • successfully complete their comprehensive written exams.

Students must apply for candidacy using the form available at the Graduate College. Submit the form to your advisor or Dissertation Chair for approval and subsequent submission to the Graduate College.

If we do not approve your admission to doctoral candidacy, your enrollment will be terminated.

Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to an Ed.D. program with an earned master's degree have eight years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The eight years starts with the student's first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If students do not complete the degree in eight years, they may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.

Students who start the Ed.D. program with a bachelor's degree have ten years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree.

Special Circumstances

NAU Employees Seeking an Educational Leadership Doctorate

If the student is a Northern Arizona University employee earning a degree in Educational Leadership, the student should consult with the Graduate College for the most current residency requirement applying to his/her status.

Students can petition for exception

Graduate students may petition for an exception to any academic, non-grade-related, graduate regulation for which there is no specific petition process. Petitions should be submitted, in writing, to the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. The student’s letter of petition should be endorsed by his/her advisor and department chair.

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