Higher Education Administration Graduate Programs

Higher Education Graduate Programs allow students to explore the many facets of higher education administration and leadership. Courses may cover a wide array of topics from ...

finance to student admissions and recruitment. Some programs may even provide research opportunites, so you could contribute to the field. Graduates may leave prepared to pursue leadership roles within post-secondary institutions. Settings include colleges, universities and higher education systems. For those looking to help guide and administer post-secondary insitutions, Higher Education programs could be a perfect fit.

 Higher Education Graduate Programs

What is Higher Education Administration?

Higher education administration includes many types of leadership roles within universities and colleges. The role of university administrators varies, but might take on several themes. On the financial side, post-secondary administrators are responsible for finance, financial aid or scholarships. They manage student records, student affairs and athletics. They may also have their finger on the pulse of instruction and curriculum. Schools needs directors of admissions, recruiting, marketing, and, policy.i If you feel you have a propensity for one type of work, look for higher education administration graduate programs that use your strengths. 

DID YOU KNOW? When surveyed about their education level, 54% of Academic Affairs Deans reported they had a Master’s degree, 22% reported having a Doctoral degree.i

Potential Courses in Higher Education Graduate Programs

Higher education graduate programs differ among schools. One of the ways to choose is to read through schools' course loads. You may want a structured program or you may want one with more room for electives. Keep in mind as well, that many programs entail fieldwork, and you may learn through experience in addition to textbooks, lectures and research. There may be some really interesting courses that surround the principles and practices of leadership for postsecondary settings. Look out for possible topics such as those listed below. iii

  • Higher education economics and finance
  • Higher education policy and planning studies
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Applied research on higher education
  • Faculty and labor relations
  • Higher education law
  • College student services
  • Institutional research
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Student evaluation and assessment issues

Tailor Your Graduate Higher Education Degree with a Concentration Area

It is possible that higher education graduate programs will have a set of core courses. However some higher education programs also allow students to pursue a concentration track. If you prefer to work with students, you might want to focus on student affairs or academic advising. You might also see specializations in Pre K-12 Schools and districts leadership or enrollment management. Ultimately, a concentration gives you the opportunity to develop more expertise within a broader field. Looking for a program with this option may be a great way to tailor your education to your specific interests. 

What Types of Higher Education Graduate Programs Are There?

Graduate higher education degrees are found at the masters and doctorate levels. The minimum education is typically a bachelors degree from an accredited university. Some higher education administration graduate programs may also require applicants to have professional or research experience under their belts. 

Higher Education Masters Programs

Masters in Higher Education programs are designed to help individuals develop leadership skills. Some prepare current teachers to seek additional 'high school principal' licensure required by most states. Earning a masters degree might also provide a platform for continued education. Most full-time students need approximately two years to complete a masters degree in higher education. That said, program lengths and requirements vary. Masters in Higher Education degrees might include either of three different Masters programs. 

  • Master of Science in Education (MSEd), Master of Science in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA): The Master of Science in Higher Education degree typically offers a more scientific or analytical approach to higher education administration. Students might seek a specific concentration such as student affairs or curriculum and instruction. 
  • Master of Arts in Education (MA) – Higher Education: The Master of Arts in Education is an academic masters degree. Students who choose this track might pursue continued education. Academic degrees also prepare students to pursue potential career paths such as faculty university professors, or higher education researchers.
  • Master of Education (MEd): The Master of Education degree (M.Ed., MEd) is a professional graduate degree. It is usually designed for students who want to pursue mid-level administration positions or advanced professional graduate study. Some schools offer the Master of Education and the Doctor of Education. 

Higher Education Doctoral Programs

PhD Higher Education programs include both academic and professional doctorate degrees. These are often designed for individuals who want to pursue potential careers in senior-level college or university administration. Typically there are in-person experiences (residency), comprehensive examinations and dissertation requirements.

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D): As a post-masters degree, the EdD degree is a professional practice degree. It is typically structured to prepare students for potential careers in leadership and applied research in higher education. Doctor of Education degree programs might take approximately three years to complete, however, this may vary.
  • Higher Education PhD Programs: The PhD in Higher Education Administration is commonly a highly research-oriented academic degree. It is designed for individuals preparing for potential careers in basic research or college-level instruction. Emphasis may be placed on educational theory, research methodology, basic studies, and in-depth knowledge in education and an exploration in a chosen field of study.

Are Online Higher Education Graduate Programs Available?

Higher Education programs may offer different learning formats including distance learning, on-campus and blended online options. Each has it's own potential benefits. Online Higher Education graduate programs could be great for busy adult learners looking to balance work and studies. Classes are delivered in a flexible online format so you could access your coursework anywhere with an internet connection.

Higher Education schools may be a better option for those who prefer face to face interactions and time in the physical classroom. Plus many campuses have additional resources like libraries, career services and research opportunities.

Finally, hybrid Higher Education graduate programs may offer a bit of both worlds. Some programs have some classes online and others on campus. Others rely heavily on online courses but require students to spend several days on campus. Programs vary, so follow up with schools for details. 

Accreditation for Higher Education Administration Schools

Accreditation is a sign that your prospective university has undergone a process of quality control vetting by a third-party accreditation agency. To keep their status, an institution must reaffirm these standards, which include keeping relevant content in their programming. The Department of Education (DOE) recognizes six regional agencies. These include the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Whether you choose a university that has an online Doctor of Education –leadership in higher education or a graduate school with a hybrid Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration, a regionally accredited school has met, per the U.S.D.E. “acceptable levels of qualityiv

Potential Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9 percent growth in employment for postsecondary education administrators from 2014 to 2024. The median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators was $88,580 in May 2015.ii Common career paths in higher education administration are listed below. i

  • Academic Affairs Dean
  • Admissions Director
  • College President
  • Dean of Students
  • Provost
  • Registrar
  • Financial Aid Director
  • Faculty professor

Per the BLS, education administrators with graduate degrees earned 44 percent higher wages than those who held bachelors degrees. v

Take the Next Step

The field of higher education leadership has different facets. Management, student support, curriculum development and educational policy analysis are just a few themes. Scroll through our directory to find sponsored listings for M.Ed., M.S.Ed., Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees. Refine your search results using ‘campus’, ‘online’ or hybrid’ as your parameters. Filter by higher education degree level. If you are specifically interested in a higher education graduate school in a certain location, choose a city, state or country from the navigation menu. Then contact programs by submitting a ‘request info’ form. Take the next step and explore your options for Higher Education Administration graduate programs today!


ionetonline.org/link/summary/11-9033.00 |iibls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm |iiinces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88119 | ivope.ed.gov/accreditation/Index.aspx | vbls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#Education