The final stage of formal learning, which occurs after secondary education, is known as Higher Education. It is also the third level of education at colleges or universities. Individuals seeking to build a career in teaching at universities or colleges should consider pursuing an online masters in higher education. An online masters in higher education will help them serve and lead in various positions at colleges and universities. They can work in multiple areas such as administration, teaching, student life and development, alumni relations, residential life, athletics, multicultural resource centers, and so on. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education occupations are projected to grow by 7% between 2021 and 2031making it a viable option to consider. This guide dives into the online master in higher education degree program to examine critical aspects such as curriculum, accreditation, career options, financial aid, and more.


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Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online MS in Higher Education Administration

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

When choosing the best higher education programs, it is essential to look at various factors that enhance the student’s overall career prospects and meet all the requirements of their interests. Some criteria to keep in mind while selecting a master’s program are course content, the university’s reputation, location, fees and funding, student support, facilities, and so on. Here are some of the best online higher education master’s programs:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Boston University
One Silber Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Stony Brook University
310 Administration Building, Stony Brook, New York 11794
Messiah University
One University Avenue, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055
Appalachian State University
287 Rivers St, Boone, North Carolina 28608
Drexel University
3141 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
128 Outreach Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
Marywood University
2300 Adams Ave, Scranton, Pennsylvania 18509
Florida International University
11200 S. W. 8 Street, Miami, Florida 33199
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24515
Mississippi College
200 South Capitol Street, Clinton, Mississippi 39058
University of Louisville
2301 S 3rd St, Louisville, Kentucky 40292
Hofstra University
100 Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 11549
Sam Houston State University
1806 Ave J, Huntsville, Texas 77340
Dallas Baptist University
3000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas, Texas 75211
Georgia Southern University
1332 Southern Drive, Statesboro, Georgia 30460
Fort Hays State University
600 Park St, Hays, Kansas 67601
Capella University
225 South 6th Street, 9th Floor, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402
Bay Path University
588 Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, Massachusetts 01106
Tiffin University
155 Miami Street, Tiffin, Ohio 44883
Louisiana State University
8100 Hwy 71 South, Alexandria, Louisiana 71302

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Masters in Higher Education Programs

A master’s in higher education will broaden the knowledge of research, practice, and higher education policy, especially in academic affairs, diversity, student affairs, and community engagement. The coursework addresses important issues impacting postsecondary institutions and college students as well as emphasizes the connection between practice and theory. It also helps students realign their needs with campus support activities through policy analysis and strategic planning.  This program allows students who wish to pursue doctoral work to develop a solid foundation. They also participate in a community of students with learners from diverse professional and academic backgrounds. Higher education masters help graduates work in a variety of departments and offices in the higher education sector. The program is offered online and offline, depending on the school and the course content. The program consists of anywhere between 30 and 40 credit hours of graduate coursework. Based on the university and coursework, students must complete an internship or thesis project to meet their degree requirements.

Masters in Higher Education Degree Types

There are three types of higher education masters. Students can choose their masters based on their career goals and personal and professional interests. The options are Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Education. 

Master of Arts in Higher Education

The Master of Arts or MA in higher education is multidisciplinary and is based on liberal arts and humanities. It is more theoretical and best suited for students who wish to pursue their research in higher education.

Master of Science in Higher Education

The Master of Science or MS in higher education has a more scientific viewpoint focusing on research, data, analysis, and analyses to make informed decisions at the leadership level. 

Master of Education in Higher Education

The higher education M.Ed. program emphasizes classroom planning, assessments, teaching methods, learning, curriculum and instruction, and educational research.

Specializations in Masters in Higher Education Programs

At the graduate level, specialization helps students broaden their skillset and enhances their career prospects while leading to better pay. The online higher education master’s is in itself a specialization of a master’s in education program. However, some schools emphasize a particular area in higher education. Here are a few examples: 

Area of Specialization Description Institutions Career Options
Leadership in Higher Education This program focuses on a specific area of higher education, such as leadership, policy, virtual learning, and student support. Graduates can work in various leadership positions at higher educational institutions.
Higher Education Administration This program supports educators and administrative leaders who want to strengthen their professional competencies. Graduates can work in the administration department of educational institutions. 
Student Affairs This program helps early-career professionals with skills, knowledge, and social justice perspectives in the areas of student development. Graduates can work in the student affairs department in educational institutions. 
Higher Education Policy, Research & Administration This program helps students gain knowledge, establish a skill base, create policy, conduct research, and understand how to get into leadership and research roles in higher education. Graduates can work in different areas of higher education administration such as recruitment, advising, student services, management and operations, research within higher education, etc. 

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

Online higher education master’s students will learn to put theory into practice and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. They will gain foundational knowledge about the present higher education landscape and sharpen their understanding of particular elements within the field. Some areas that higher education masters cover are advising, student services, recruitment, admissions, management and operations, institutional effectiveness, and research within higher education. Each curriculum has a set of core courses the students need to take to meet their coursework requirements. Here are some higher education courses that make up the 30 to 40 credit-curriculum: 

  1. Student Development Theory – Student development theory suggests different development stages of college students and how they experience and think about the world. This theory helps higher education administrators improve their ability to help college students during their educational journey. 
  2. Assessment in Student Affairs – Assessments in student affairs help higher education professionals determine if their efforts are meeting the developmental needs of students as well as the goals of their institution. 
  3. Student Affairs Administration – This course focuses on the development and learning that occur in and outside the classroom and in all dimensions of life on the college campus. 
  4. Critical Issues Seminar in Higher Education – This course covers current and critical issues which impact institutions and higher education leaders. 

Here are some other courses one can expect in a higher education master’s: 

  • Educational Inquiry 
  • Organizational Theory & Leadership in Higher Education 
  • Higher Education in the U.S. 
  • Basic Statistical Methods 
  • Policy Issues in Education 
  • Working with College Students 
  • Philosophy of Education 
  • Anthropology of Education 
  • Sociology in Education 
  • Education Policy and the Law 
  • Introduction to Disciplined Inquiry 
  • History of American Education 
  • Diversity and Higher Education 
  • Educational Evaluation 
  • Media and Digital Technologies for Leadership in Higher Education 
  • Law, Policy, and Finance in Higher Education 
  • Queer(ing) Topics in Education 
  • Gender Issues in Education 
  • Introduction to Student Affairs 

In addition to core courses, students will have to choose their electives according to their professional interests. Depending on the program, they may also have to complete a capstone project or a thesis to fulfill the degree requirements. In some programs, students will have to complete an internship as a part of their program. 

By pursuing an online master’s in higher education program, students gain specific skills which prepare them for various careers. Some such skills include the ability to: 

  • explore pollical, cultural, and social dynamics of student affairs; 
  • exhibit leadership qualities grounded in effective practice and theory; 
  • competently assess and incorporate quantitative and qualitative research to real-world issues in higher education; 
  • positively influence student adjustments to academic performance, college life, and completion of a degree; 
  • describe, comprehend, and analyze ideas, studies, and theories relevant to higher education; 
  • promote the development of diversity and opportunity throughout higher education; 
  • apply the necessary theory, knowledge, and methods to critically evaluate and analyze relevant higher education policy; 
  • effectively define, comprehend, and analyze studies and theories exposing unfair educational opportunities, policies, and practices in higher education institutions;  
  • comprehend relevant organizational, historical, financial, governance, diversity, campus environments, policy, and other contemporary issues concerning higher education; and 
  • Use both written and oral modes of communication to display strong and effective communication abilities.

Accreditation for Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

An accredited institution is a post-secondary institution that goes through the process of evaluation to maintain the standards of educational quality. It is an indication that universities and colleges have met or exceeded basic education standards. Students should pursue an online higher education masters from a college that has been nationally or regionally accredited. In most instances, it is common for reputed institutions to be accredited by regional accrediting agencies such as: 

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC

The accreditation status of a college can be checked on the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) official websites. 

To know more about accreditation and its importance, read the Accreditation Guide

Timeline for graduation from Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

Online higher education masters programs are available in both full-time and part-time formats. Students opting for full-time programs usually earn their degrees in about 2 years, while part-time students require 3 to 5 years. Part-time students will have the advantage of working while studying, with a flexible schedule made available to them. Overall, the online master’s in higher education requires 30 to 40 credits, depending on the school, specialization, and program.

Online Masters in Higher Education Programs Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for a master’s in higher education are essentially the same across universities. Nevertheless, each university may have additional requirements that the prospective student needs to meet to get admission into the program. Here are the typical higher education masters requirements: 

  • Application Form with its prescribed fee 
  • Official Academic Transcripts 
  • An Undergraduate Degree from an Accredited Institution 
  • A Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 GPA or more 
  • Minimum two Letters of Recommendation 
  • A Personal Statement outlining interests and personal experience in Higher Education 
  • Graduate Résumé 
  • GRE Scores (varies by institution)

No GRE Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

Most graduate schools require prospective students to give the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit their scores when applying to a program. However, some universities have either done away with this requirement or waived it under certain circumstances (such as an applicant having a high GPA). Students who do not want to take the GRE can look for schools that exempt them from submitting the score, such as the University of PittsburghUniversity of Colorado Boulder, and the New York University, which offer online masters in higher education no GRE programs.

Accelerated Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

Accelerated programs allow students to complete their masters more quickly than usual. It is a structured program where students achieve their educational degree in fewer than the required 4 years for a bachelor’s degree and 2 years for a master’s degree. Students can fast-track their degree and cover more classes in less time through accelerated programs. Here are some accelerated and 1-year higher education master’s programs: 

  • Temple University – offers an undergraduate and graduate program that can be completed in 5 years instead of 6. 
  • Saint Peter’s University – offers an accelerated program that offers graduate-level courses in the final year of the bachelor’s program to finish the master’s in 1 year. 
  • SUNY Buffalo State College – offers an MS bachelor’s and master’s in higher education and student affairs that can be completed in 5 years.

Free Higher Education Courses Online

When it comes to free courses, none lead to a master’s degree, and most institutions or the industry do not recognize them. Free courses are beneficial for gaining some additional knowledge on the subject. Students keen on increasing their knowledge can choose to do a free course. Here are some free courses in the study of higher education: 

Course Provided by Description 
Topics Related to Higher Education Coursera One of the most popular online learning platforms, Coursera offers free and paid courses in several aspects of education, such as Instructional Design, Special Education, Adult Education, Teaching, Online Teaching, Pedagogy, Educational Technology, etc. 
Topics Related to Higher Education The Open University The Open University offers tens of topics related to higher education studies across three levels – introductory, intermediate, and advanced. Topics include Careers Education and Guidance, Childhood in the Digital Age, Employee Engagement, The Importance of Interpersonal Skills, and more.  
Topics Related to Higher Education Udemy Udemy provides higher education aspirants with over 200 free courses on topics ranging from Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education and Raising and Sustaining the Bar of Excellence in Education to Decoding the Recipe of Education & Skilling in the 21st Century to Learn Psychological Perspective of Education and learning. 

How to Pay for Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

The cost of an online masters in higher education depends on various factors such as location, program format, institution, and so on. Fortunately, online students get to save on travel and housing and must only pay for tuition fees, course material, and distance fees. Contingent on several factors, the tuition fee for a higher education master’s is between $6,000 to $20,000. Students can examine various funding mechanisms to fund their graduate degrees, some of which are listed below:


Candidates can apply for scholarships based on their academic success and other factors such as cultural heritage, socio-economic background, community services, and so on. Scholarships can be offered by the private sector, national organizations, industry-related organizations, and universities too. 


Unlike scholarships, which are merit-based, grants are not based mainly on academics but financial need. They can be used to pay for tuition or cover other educational costs such as commute, accommodation, educational supplies, etc.

Graduate Assistantships

Students seeking a part-time job in the field of education can consider working as graduate assistants. Based on the type of assistantship, they either help in program development and other academic activities or teach undergraduate students. In exchange, they are given a stipend or fee waiver. 


The federal work-study program offers part-time jobs for students pursuing their undergraduate and graduate studies who are in financial need. They can work in community services or any sector related to their subject.

Student Loans

Students who cannot afford their tuition fees can apply for student loans. The federal government, banks, and other private institutions provide loans to students. But students must be aware that they will have to pay the loan back with interest, which adds to financial pressure and educational costs.


Students who want to receive financial aid from the United States Federal Government must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA to review their eligibility. More information on FAFSA is available here.

To know more about college funding and financial aid, read the Cost of Master’sScholarship Scams, and the Financial Aid Guide. 

Scholarships for Online Masters in Higher Education Programs

By applying for scholarships, graduate students can easily fund their own education. Scholarships help students reduce their tuition fees by a vast amount, if not the whole. Students can apply for scholarships based on their academic success. Universities, private organizations, and associations offer scholarships to students. Here are some scholarships for online higher education masters students to explore: By applying for scholarships, graduate students can easily fund their own education. Scholarships help students reduce their tuition fees by a vast amount, if not the whole. Students can apply for scholarships based on their academic success. Universities, private organizations, and associations offer scholarships to students. Here are some scholarships for online higher education masters students to explore:

Leon Bradley Scholarship Program

The Leon Bradley Scholarship Program, administered by the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA), encourages minority students or persons of color to enter the field of teaching and school leadership.

Award/Amount: $3,500 each

Application Deadline: Closed for 2023 | TBA for 2024

Pi Lambda Theta

Pi Lambda Theta is one of the foremost education honor societies in the U.S. The organization offers scholarships to member students who are committed to academic excellence and want to work in education or pursue a teaching profession.

Award/Amount: $500 to $2,000

Application Deadline: Closed for 2023 | TBA for 2024

Central Scholarship

Central Scholarship is one of the few sources of support for graduate students seeking degrees in education and social work. The group provides over 80 scholarships and interest-free loans to encourage students to focus on their education rather than funding their education.

Award/Amount: $1,000 to $11,000

Application Deadline: Between October 15 and March 15 every year

FAQs about Higher Education Programs

What is a masters in higher education?

A masters in higher education provides an essential introduction to research, policy, and theory in the field of higher education, including a range of global, national, and international perspectives. Some of the courses in the program include higher education administration, student development theory, history of higher education, research methods, and so on.

Where can I get a higher education degree?

Can I teach with a masters in higher education?

Masters in education vs. masters in higher education – what’s the difference?

What can I do with a master’s in higher education degree online?

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Careers and Salary Outlook for Masters in Higher Education Graduates

Graduates of online higher education masters can work in a wide range of settings with diverse job titles. Some of the main places they usually work in are colleges and universities, enhancing their students’ lives in various areas of education.  

There are various job titles one can take up in different areas of education after the completion of a masters in higher education. Some of the common higher education jobs are: 

  • Educational Consultant 
  • Residential Life Coordinator 
  • Fundraising Officer 
  • Postsecondary Education Administrator 
  • Administrator or Admissions Dean 
  • Student Services Dean 
  • Education or Career Counselors 
  • Financial Aid Director 
  • Instructional Coordinators 
  • Provost or Vice President 
  • Student Engagement Outreach Specialist 
  • Postsecondary Teachers (at some Community Colleges) 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education occupations are projected to grow by 10% between 2020 and 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The sectors of education, training, and library will add about 920,500 new jobs in the same period. The following list highlights the statistical data of different job positions after obtaining a master’s in higher education:  

Occupation Skills Required Median Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030) Job Description 
Postsecondary Education Administrators Organizational skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, computer skills $96,910 8% (as fast average) Administrators in postsecondary education are in charge of academics, faculty research, and student services at colleges and universities. Their job responsibilities differ depending on the division in which they are employed, such as admissions, student affairs, or the registrar’s office. 
School and Career Counselors and Advisors Listening skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, speaking skills, compassion $60,510 11% (faster than average) School counselors assist students in creating academic, social, and post-graduation plans. Career counselors and advisors assist students and other clients with skill development, employment exploration, and selection of educational paths leading to careers. 
Training and Development Managers Collaboration skills, critical-thinking skills, communication skills, business skills, instructional skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills $120,130 11% (faster than average) Training and development managers are responsible for managing training programs, personnel, and budgets, and also plan, coordinate, and drive staff skill- and knowledge-enhancement initiatives. They are in charge of designing and developing training programs or choosing the course materials and content for training programs. 
Instructional Coordinators Interpersonal skills, communication skills, analytical skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills $63,740 10% (as fast as average) Instructional coordinators are responsible for school curricula and teaching standards. They create educational materials, put them into practice with teachers and administrators, and evaluate the efficacy of curricula and instructional methods mandated by school boards, state departments, or federal regulations. 

Certifications and Licensing for Higher Education Graduates

Getting a certification in a specific area within a subject helps in broadening one’s knowledge as well as increasing one’s job prospects. Typically, no particular certification is required for higher education professionals. But if they wish to strengthen their expertise in a specific area, they can pursue a graduate certificate or a certificate in that area. Here are some of the certificate programs for online higher education masters students and professionals: 

  1. Graduate Education Certificate Programs – Drexel University’s School of Education offers 14 graduate certificate programs on different topics in education. They offer a series of courses that lead to knowledge in a particular area of higher education. 
  2. Certificate Program in Student Affairs and Higher Education Administration – The Student Affairs Certificate will provide students with the knowledge to foster engagement and relationships, work with diverse student bodies, and better understand the higher education landscape. 
  3. Certified Higher Education Professional (CHEP) Certification – Employees of career-oriented institutions who are seeking excellence in their prospective positions can get the Certified Higher Education Professional (CHEP) certification. This certification is awarded by Career Education Colleges and Universities, which is an international association representing the vision and voice of postsecondary career education. 

Additional Resources for Higher Education Professionals

Additional resources are helpful for graduates to keep themselves up to date in their field. Connecting with peers and staying relevant to the advances in universities and the industry is crucial. By making good use of resources, students and working professionals get to know about the latest changes or updates that take place in their field.  Here are some excellent resources for graduates of master’s in higher education online programs: 

  1. Education USA – Education USA offers several resources and information for people working in higher education sectors in the United States. It offers services to the higher education community in the country to help institutional leaders meet their recruitment and campus goals. It provides resources on various programs, education networks, online services, educational seminars, and special programs. 
  2. Pearson – Pearson offers services and products for teaching to help their students increase their knowledge and explore their potential. It provides personalized content apps and other digital resources for higher education. In addition, Pearson also offers services and products for higher education institutions to overcome challenges and realize opportunities for growth and change.   
  3. National Education Association (NEA) – The National Education Association (NEA) supports higher education professionals by helping them advocate for fair pay, academic freedom, safe working conditions, and so on. By providing the necessary resources and skills, NEA also helps in professional growth, leadership development, research, and data analysis. 
  4. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) – The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides statistical information on all aspects of education/post-secondary institutions. It collects, collates, analyses, and reports data related to all levels of education in the United States. 
  5. American Educational Research Association (AERA) – The American Educational Research Association (AERA), established in 1916, is dedicated to enhancing the educational process by fostering scholarly investigation into education and evaluation as well as by promoting the distribution and practical application of research findings. AERA offers graduate students and professionals a wealth of resources such as events and meetings, education research tools, publications, information on policy and advocacy, etc. 
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