Graduate Programs & Colleges in Hawaii

In fact, Hawaii is one of the most diverse states, with the highest multiracial population, and the highest population of Asian Americans alone or in part.i Hawaii is also known for its acceptance of LGBT identities, with a cultural heritage traditionally open to both—meaning it’s no surprise that Hawaii also has one of the largest LGBT populations of all 50 states.ii

Universities and colleges in Hawaii include:

  • University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu
  • Hawaii Pacific University
  • Argosy University Honolulu

Of course, finding that perfect program is only part of the process. To attend graduate schools in Hawaii, you’ll also need to pick up and move to your new home thousands of miles away. How do you know what part of Hawaii could be a fit for you? Start learning about life in Hawaii with our guide to each of the major islands, below.

A Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Attending graduate schools in Hawaii isn’t a vacation… though living in Hawaii certainly isn’t a chore, either. (After all, it’s Hawaii.) Whether you’re coming here for an academic opportunity, or because you’ve been dying to experience that aloha spirit the islands are known for, one thing’s for certain: life here is unlike anywhere else.

Hawaii was the last state to be admitted to the union, in 1959, after being annexed as a territory by the United States in 1898. Prior to that, Hawaii was an independent nation, with its own governance, traditions, and heritage. Many of those traditions persist to this day in communities across the state.

Hawaii today is made up of eight main islands, along with numerous smaller islands that are generally uninhabited.

Discover Top Hawaii Cities for a Graduate Program

PopulationMedian Household IncomeMedian Gross Rent% of person having a bachelor’s degree or higher

Hawai’i: The Big Island

The main island of Hawaii is also, appropriately, named “Hawaii.” It’s commonly referred to as “the big island,” and for good reason. It’s the largest by land area, as well as by population. In fact, it’s the third largest island in all of Polynesia. Because the Island of Hawaii is so populous, if you attend graduate schools in Hawaii, there’s a solid chance you’d end up here. One big perk for students: the island is also known for its coffee—ever tried Kona before?

The Big Island was formed from the eruptions of five different shield volcanoes: Kohala, which is extinct; Mauna Kea, which is dormant; and Hualālai, Mauna Loa, and Kīlauea, all three of which are active. As such, it’s no surprise that Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located on the island of Hawaii. The park also has the honor of being designated a World Heritage Site, in part because Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are the most active and the largest shield volcanoes in the world, respectively.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is far from the only protected area on the big island, however. Sustainability and conservation are a big deal here. Other protected areas include:

  • Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
  • Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
  • Honokōhau Settlement and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
  • Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
  • Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge
  • Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site

From an outside perspective, one might expect tourism to be the primary industry driving the island—and the state as a whole. And while tourism is a major factor, the Island of Hawaii also has a diverse agriculture industry, as well as ocean science research and technology.

The island is also well known for its astronomy opportunities, due in part to the relative lack of light pollution. Three such facilities include:

  • The ‘Imaloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
  • The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy
  • The Mauna Kea Observatories

Maui: The Valley Isle

The island of Maui shares its name with a famous figure from the Hawaiian religion—one you might recognize if you’ve seen Disney’s Moana. The second largest island in the state of Hawaii, Maui is called “The Valley Isle” after the isthmus that connects its northwestern and southeastern regions.

Maui’s economy is driven primarily by tourism, which may be one factor influencing their recent population growth—many retirees have elected to move to Maui. Other major industries include agriculture, information technology, and astrophysics, particularly at the Haleakala Observatory and the Maui Space Surveillance Site. If you’re attending graduate schools in Hawaii and find yourself in Maui, you may be able to seek internships or even careers in these and other fields.

A major hub of information technology in Maui is the Maui High Performance Computing Center, which operates from the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Observatory, managed by the US Air Force and the University of Hawaii.

Of course, Maui isn’t all work—far from it, considering how many tourists come every year to enjoy themselves. Watersports are particularly big here, with popular examples being snorkeling, windsurfing, surfing, kiteboarding, and kitesurfing, to name a few. Popular attractions for tourists—meaning you might want to check them out at least once in your free time—include Haleakalā National Park, Iao Valley, the Hāna Highway, and Lahaina, which was the historic royal capital of Maui Loa.

O’ahu: The Gathering Place

If you’ve heard of only one Hawaiian city, odds are strong that it’s on O’ahu. Called “The Gathering Place” based both on historic tradition and its relative population, O’ahu is home not only to two thirds of the state’s population, but also its capital, Honolulu. It’s also the home of some of Hawaii’s most famous beaches—like Waikiki, Sunset Beach, and Hanauma Bay—The Triple Crown of Surfing, and Pearl Harbor.

Even if you’ve never been here, you’ve probably seen Oahu. That’s because it’s been featured in a wide range of films and television shows over the years, including titles like 50 First Dates, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, The Descendants, Hawaii Five-O, Lost, and more.

Oahu has a strong cultural scene, with attractions like the Honolulu Symphony, the Hawaii Opera Theater, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Hawaii State Art Museum. People interested more in natural wonders might explore the Waikiki Aquarium, the Foster Botanical Garden, Liliuokalani Botanical Garden, or the Bishop Museum, which houses the largest natural history collection in the state.

Colleges in Oahu include The University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Chaminade University, Brigham Young University – Hawaii, Remington College, and Hawai’i Pacific University.

Kaua’i: The Garden Isle

Geologically speaking, Kaua’i is the oldest Hawaiian island. Like the others, it’s volcanic in origin, though there haven’t bee eruptions there for more than a million years. Today, Kaua’i is home to Waimea Canyon State Park, which has been referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It’s also unique for its population of wild chickens—in Hawaiian, they’re called “moa”—which proliferate due to the lack of natural predators.

The local economy is largely driven by tourism. As such, there are many unique activities and attractions available for locals and residents alike. For example, Residents and visitors in Kaua’i could learn more about Hawai’ian culture and traditions through the Kaua’i Heritage Center of Hawai’ian Culture and the Arts, and learn things like Hawai’ian language, hula, lei making, and more.

Other attractions include include the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Waimea Canyon, the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Hanalei Bay, Wailua Falls, Ke’e Beach, and Queen’s Bath, just to name a few. Those who love the outdoors may enjoy miles of hiking, surfing, snorkeling, and more.

While there are no graduate schools formally located in Kaua’i, students interested in settling down here may opt for hybrid or distance programs at a graduate school in Hawaii on another island.

Moloka’i: The Friendly Isle

The fifth largest of the main islands, a good portion of Moloka’i is considered part of Maui County. It’s close enough that you could see lights from both Maui and O’ahu at night, depending where you are. Moloka’i is fairly rural, with agriculture playing a major role in its economy. Compared to the rest of Hawaii, its tourism industry is relatively small.

Attrractions of interest on Molokia’i include the Kalaupapa National Historic Park, the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, Kalaupapa Lookout, and the Papohaku Beach Park, which is one of Hawaii’s largest beaches. Molokai is also home to the longest fringing reef in the United States.

Lāna’i: The Pineapple Isle

The sixth largest island in Hawaii, Lānaʻi is nicknamed Pineapple Island in honor of its history as a pineapple plantation. Today, it’s a tropical destination off the beaten path. Unusually, 98% of the island is privately owned, though it’s still home to more than three thousand people and attracts many visitors.

If you find yourself visiting Lāna’i, or even living here, you won’t be short on things to do in your free time. The island boasts 18 miles of beaches, for example, including the beautiful Hulopoe Bay. You could visit the Garden of the Gods, Keahiakawelo, or take a truly enviable selfie at Puu Pehe.

Lāna’i may especially be a destination for those who love the outdoors. Whether you’re itching for a day hike, horseback riding, snorkeling, boating, or surfing, you could scratch that itch here.

Ni’ihau: The Forbidden Isle

As the nickname suggests, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up living on The Forbidden Isle. In fact, in the 2010 census, fewer than 200 people did live there, in the village of Pu’uwai, where the primary language spoken is the Hawaiian language.

Ni’hau (also spelled “Niihau”) is privately owned, meaning that there are only two ways to visit: a personal invitation from the family that owns the island, or by booking one of the official day tours.

Niihau has very few paved roads or modern amenities. Instead, visitors here may take in the natural, untampered beauty of the Hawaiian islands.

Kaho’olawe: The Target Isle

Unlike Ni’ihau, which has a small local population, Kaho’olawe is entirely uninhabited. The island historically only supported a sparse population, due in part to the lack of accessible fresh water. However, small fishing villages did exist here for a time. In World War II, the island was used for bombardment and live fire training by the US Armed Forces until about 1990.

Today, the entire island is protected and managed by the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), which works to clean up and restore Kaho’olawe and its ecosystem, as well as its sites of religious and cultural significance. While there are no permanent residents here, grad students interested in conservation may be able to get involved on a volunteer or internship basis, provided they qualify and are selected for the opportunity.

Types of Graduate Programs in Hawaii

It’s awfully tempting to get lost in the recreation, history, and beauty of Hawaii. But, of course, your original purpose in coming here was to earn a graduate degree! Luckily, Hawaii has a number of universities offering the masters and doctoral programs that could help you get your foot in the door of one of the top occupations in the state. Below is a list of top occupations in Hawaii as well as three examples of popular programs that people may come to Hawaii graduate schools to study.

Study Psychology in Hawaii

Interested in learning more about the human psyche? Psychology graduate schools in Hawaii could support you in pursuit of your goals, you want to perform research or apply your knowledge to help others overcome personal issues and thrive.

Psychology graduate programs in Hawaii include:

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Human and Animal Cognition Program
  • Akamai University Online Applied Psychology Program
  • Argosy University Honolulu American School of Professional Psychology Clinical Psychology Program
  • Kona University Masters in Transpersonal Psychology Program

Business Graduate Schools in Hawaii

One thing is for sure—whether you end up in the tourism or hospitality industry, finance, technology, or something else entirely, odds are strong that your organization might need somebody like you with leadership and business savvy.

Business schools in Hawaii offer grad students the opportunity to hone those skills in support of growing careers in the Aloha state. If you’re still at the start of your career journey, some programs may be able to support you in finding the internships you need to build up your resume, or offer guidance surrounding your career search once you graduate.

Business graduate schools in Hawaii include:

  • Hawai’i Pacific University Executive MBA Program
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Travel Industry Management
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu Japanese Business Studies Program
  • Hawai’i Pacific University MA in Organizational Change

Science Graduate Programs in Hawaii

Hawaii might be beautiful, but it’s also full of unique opportunities to explore and study the natural world. Scientific graduate programs in Hawaii offer students the chance to do just that. Programs may support you whether interested in conservation, or in understanding the earth, the ocean, or applying that understanding to shape law and policy, or something else entirely!

Best of all, in Hawaii, the world is your classroom. Whether your program takes you out into the field, or you want time and space to explore on your own, Hawaii could support your graduate education in unique ways.

Science related graduate programs in Hawaii include:

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Oceanography Masters and Doctoral Programs
  • University of Hawaii at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Program
  • Hawaii Pacific MS in Marine Science
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Ocean and Resource Engineering Program

Find Graduate Schools in Hawaii

Start your search for colleges in Hawaii with! Browse the sponsored program listings to find graduate programs you’re interested in. Then click on the names of any you want to learn more about to get in touch!

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  • Wake Forest University

  • Grand Canyon University

  • The University of Arizona Global Campus

  • Western Governors University

  • Purdue Global

  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

  • LIGS University

  • International College And Graduate School

  • International University of Professional Studies

  • Traditional Chinese Medical College Of Hawaii

  • Tai Hsuan College Of Acupuncture And Herbal Medicine

  • Chaminade University of Honolulu

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