Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Donna Schnorr


In higher education, the extended time-to-degree of doctoral students creates a gap between those who graduate on time and those who do not. This delay is due to program structures, relationships, and dissertation writing. Academic success requires timely program completion and increases career opportunities for graduates. A long time to degree increases the risk of non-completion, especially during dissertations. Attrition, persistence, and dropping out have been studied, but why students graduate on time needs more examination. Most studies focus on Ph.D. students and programs with different requirements and time-to-degree, so new research must include Ed.D. students and examine doctoral graduates' experiences.

This researcher examined Educational Leadership Doctoral (Ed.D.) Program factors and experiences using anonymous survey data from doctoral graduates. A mixed method convergent parallel design was employed to explore the complex factors influencing doctoral graduates' time to degree, incorporating program support, relationships, and writing experiences. The median time to degree was 3.62 years, slightly longer than the three-year program design, based on the 50 doctoral graduates who responded to the survey. The researcher found that years of work experience, employment change, and cohort size affected doctoral graduates' time to degree completion. Additionally, using the doctoral program handbook, engaging with faculty advisors, and having satisfying relationships with doctoral faculty, advisors, and students outside their cohort were distinguishing factors between those who graduated on time and those who did not. Furthermore, having more confidence in writing skills and dissertation writing, along with program writing support, trended toward a shorter time to degree.

The result of this analysis shed light on the critical role of institutional support, program design, interpersonal relationships, and writing assistance on doctoral graduates’ time to degree completion. These findings provide actionable insight for doctoral program administrators and faculty to enhance Ed.D. programs, enhance support resources, and empower students to graduate on time