Ed.D. Program Requirements

Core Curriculum Requirements

All candidates are required to:

  • Complete the program’s core curriculum, which includes 20 courses totaling 60 credits.
  • Register for nine credits each semester and be continuously enrolled to meet the core requirements, with the exception of the first summer, which requires candidates to register for six credits.
  • Take the core courses offered in this curriculum; courses taken at other institutions may not be used as substitutes.
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better each semester to continue in the program.

Dissertation Requirements

To be eligible to submit the final dissertation for defense and approval, all candidates are required to:

  • Complete satisfactorily all course requirements with a minimum of a 3.0 (B) or better cumulative grade point average.
  • Fulfill the residency requirement.
  • Pass the comprehensive examination.
  • Receive approval from their dissertation chair.

Preparation for the dissertation process starts during the first semester of the program. Each semester, at least one course focusing on dissertation development is required. By the end of the second semester, candidates select a dissertation topic. By the end of the eighth semester, candidates are expected to complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation.

To facilitate timely completion of the dissertation, each candidate is assigned a faculty advisor during the first semester of study. Assuming satisfactory progress, each candidate will be assigned a dissertation chair and committee member by the beginning of the second semester.

The dissertation committee, under the direction of the chair, oversees the progress, content, defense, methodology, and completion of each assigned candidate’s dissertation proposal and dissertation. As the dissertation process progresses, candidates, with the approval of the chair, may bring on an additional member to the committee.

The dissertation writing must be clear, scholarly, and follow generally accepted standards for the publication of scholarly papers. The dissertation may be a quantitative and/or qualitative study. The dissertation also should contribute to the body of knowledge and professional practice. Candidates will demonstrate:

  • A thorough grasp of the relevant research
  • The ability to gather, interpret, and analyze data
  • An understanding of how to interpret findings
  • The capacity to articulate policy implications and recommendations for action

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the Ed.D. in Executive Leadership, candidates in the program are required to:

  • Complete a minimum of 90 credit hours. Up to 30 credit hours from an approved graduate degree program may be considered for transfer.
  • Complete the program’s core requirements, comprised of a minimum of 60 credit hours, including research methodologies and the dissertation.
  • Pass a comprehensive exam, and write and defend a doctoral dissertation proposal and dissertation.
  • Satisfy the residency requirement by completing at least nine credits of core courses each semester for two consecutive semesters.

Additional Program Requirements


All candidates in the doctoral program are required to satisfy a residency requirement as a condition for earning the Ed.D. degree. The residency requirement is defined as completion of at least nine credits of core courses each semester for two consecutive semesters. This requirement must be fulfilled before a candidate can take the comprehensive exam and within the first four semesters of study.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination is an assessment of knowledge in the candidate’s area of specialization. Candidates normally take the examination by the end of their fourth semester. The comprehensive examination is a three-part written exam requiring candidates to demonstrate essential knowledge, skills, dispositions, and reasoning based on the program’s learning objectives.

Candidates are permitted two opportunities to pass the comprehensive examination. A candidate who is unsuccessful after two attempts will be withdrawn from the doctoral program. In unusual circumstances, a candidate may petition the program director to be permitted a third opportunity to re-take the examination. To be eligible to take the comprehensive examination, candidates will be required to:

  • Have a minimum of a 3.0 (B) or better grade point average with no incompletes, and to have made satisfactory
    progress toward the completion of degree requirements.
  • Have the recommendation of their advisor.
  • Submit evidence satisfactory to the advisor of their ability to do research in the area of specialization
  • Be registered for the term in which the exam is taken.


  • Participation in and attendance at all classes is a critical component for successful completion of the Executive Leadership program.
  • As a future executive leader, there is also an expectation that a candidate’s participation, attendance, and work will reflect the standards, care, and scholarship that are required in a rigorous doctoral-level program.
  • One missed weekend session is equivalent to being absent for 25 percent of a course, and will adversely impact a candidate’s final grade in that course. It is important, therefore, that candidates make every effort to be on time and attend every session.
  • If it is necessary to miss or be late to a class, candidates are required to notify the faculty member teaching the course in advance, if possible.
  • Specific details of the attendance policy and requirements will be provided by the faculty at the start of each course.

Ed.D. Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Ryan Pacatte

Dr. Ryan Pacatte

Ryan Pacatte received his Ed.D. degree from Fisher in 2009. Since obtaining his degree, he has had the chance to serve as the high school principal and assistant superintendent for instruction and student learning with the Palmyra Macedon Central School District.

Ryan was drawn to Fisher because of the feeling of energy and excitement he felt from the College.

"Instead of joining a tradition, I felt as though Fisher was creating one," he says.

Ryan describes his experience at Fisher as transformative, one that has allowed him to be a better systems thinker and a more deliberate leader.

Since graduating, his doctorate has opened doors for new leadership positions and other opportunities such as leadership mentoring, panel discussions, and keynote speaking. The most important benefit for Ryan is the confidence and comfort he gained as a leader.


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