Derick de Souza
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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 master’s in higher education. An online higher education master’s 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, alum relations, residential life, athletics, multicultural resource centers, etc. 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.


Table Of Contents

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 Master’s 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 remember while selecting a master’s program are course content, the university’s reputation, location, fees and funding, student support, facilities, etc. 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 Online Master’s 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 and 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 master’s help graduates work in various 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.

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Master’s in Higher Education Online 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 master’s covers are advising, student services, recruitment, admissions, management and operations, institutional effectiveness, and research within higher education. Each curriculum has a set of core courses students must take to meet their coursework requirements. Some higher education core courses may include:

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.

Assessment in Student Affairs

This course explores methodologies for evaluating student learning and development. Topics include data collection, analysis, and application to improve student services and programs. Students gain skills in designing effective assessment strategies to enhance the overall student experience in higher education settings.

Student Affairs Administration

The course examines theories and practices related to student services in colleges and universities. Topics cover student development, counseling, diversity, and leadership. Students learn to design and manage programs that support student success and contribute to a vibrant campus community.

Critical Issues Seminar in Higher Education

This course addresses contemporary challenges facing higher education. Topics include access, equity, globalization, and technology’s impact on learning. Through analysis and discussion, students explore innovative solutions to complex issues shaping the future of higher education institutions and their diverse stakeholders.

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 must 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 that prepare them for various careers. Some such skills include the ability to:

  • explore political, 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.

Master’s in Higher Education Degree Types

There are three types of higher education master’s. Students can choose their master’s 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 Master’s in Higher Education Programs

At the graduate level, specialization helps students broaden their skills and enhance their career prospects, 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 Career Options
Leadership in Higher EducationThis specialization focuses on developing strategic leadership skills tailored to the unique challenges of academia. Students delve into topics such as organizational management, policy development, and fostering innovation in higher education institutions, preparing them for leadership roles within the academic sphere.Graduates can work in various leadership positions at higher educational institutions.
Higher Education Administration This specialization equips students with the knowledge and skills to manage academic institutions effectively. Topics include budgeting, student affairs, faculty development, and institutional governance, preparing graduates for leadership roles in university administration, admissions, and academic support services.Graduates can work in the administration department of educational institutions.
Student Affairs This specialization fosters holistic student development in higher education settings. Students learn about counseling, student services, diversity, and campus programming. This prepares graduates for roles in advising, residence life, career services, and other areas to support students’ academic and personal success.Graduates can work in the student affairs department in educational institutions.
Higher Education Policy, Research & AdministrationThis specialization emphasizes the study of policy analysis, research methods, and administrative practices in higher education. Students delve into educational equity, governance structures, and data-driven decision-making, preparing them for policy development, institutional research, and academic administration.Graduates can work in different areas of higher education administration, such as recruitment, advising, student services, management and operations, research within higher education, etc.

Timeline for graduation from Master’s in Higher Education Online Programs

Online higher education master’s programs are available in both full-time and part-time formats. Students opting for full-time programs usually earn their degrees in about two 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.

Accelerated Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs

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

Temple University1– offers an undergraduate and graduate program that can be completed in 5 years instead of 6.
Saint Peter’s University2– 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.

Master’s in Higher Education Online Programs Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for a higher-education master’s are essentially the same across universities. Nevertheless, each university may have additional requirements for the prospective student to meet to get admission into the program. Here are the typical higher education master’s 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
  • A Graduate Résumé
  • GRE Scores (varies by institution)

No GRE Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs

Most graduate schools require prospective students to take 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 their scores, such as the University of Colorado Boulder3, and New York University4, which offer master’s in higher education with no GRE programs.

Accreditation for Master’s in Higher Education Online Programs

An accredited institution is a post-secondary institution that goes through the evaluation process to maintain educational quality standards. It indicates that universities and colleges have met or exceeded basic education standards. Students should pursue an online higher education master’s 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:

The accreditation status of a college can be checked on the United States Department of Education (USDE 5 or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)6 official websites.
To know more about accreditation and its importance, read the Accreditation Guide.

Free Higher Education Courses Online

Regarding 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 

Learn English: Higher Education and Perfect Modals7
AlisonThis course introduces fundamental vocabulary for university settings, aiding the identification of individuals, locations, and academic disciplines. Participants will refine present perfect tense usage, mastering ‘since’ and ‘for’ applications. Additionally, common modals will be reviewed, enabling the construction of perfect modals by merging modal verbs with the present perfect tense.
Early Childhood Special Education Needs8AlisonThis course emphasizes early education’s significance for children with Special Education Needs (SEN). The course explores special education’s role in integrating these children into society. It analyzes family, school, and societal contributions to fostering inclusive environments that nurture their development and uphold their dignity. 
Education for All: Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion9Class CentralThis course explores inclusive education, addressing learning barriers and promoting inclusivity. Participants engage over six weeks, learning from diverse experiences to foster inclusive learning environments. This course suits educators, professionals, and parents interested in inclusive education development. Communities aiming for school inclusivity can form supportive groups to implement inclusive strategies aided by provided resources, particularly in low-resource settings.

How to Pay for Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs

The cost of an online master’s in higher education depends on factors such as location, program format, institution, etc. 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 approximaely 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.


Unlike scholarships, which are merit-based, grants are not based mainly on academics but on 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 student loans. However, students must be aware that they must repay the loan with interest, which adds to financial pressure and educational costs.


Students seeking 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 Master’s in Higher Education Online 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 master’s students to explore:

Leon Bradley Scholarship Program10

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: May, annually

Pi Lambda Theta11

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

Award/Amount: $500 to $2,000

Application Deadline: April, annually

Careers and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Higher Education Graduates

Graduates of online higher education master’s can work in various 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. 

One can take up various job titles in different areas of education after completing a master’s 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 Counselor
  • Financial Aid Director
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Provost or Vice President
  • Student Engagement Outreach Specialist
  • Postsecondary Teachers (at some Community Colleges)

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 Administrators12 Organizational skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, computer skills$99,9404% (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 Advisors13Listening skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, speaking skills, compassion$60,140 5% (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 Managers14 Collaboration skills, critical-thinking skills, communication skills, business skills, instructional skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills$120,000 6% (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 15 Interpersonal skills, communication skills, analytical skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills $66,4902% (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 or certificate in that area. Here are some certificate programs for online higher education master’s students and professionals:

Certified Higher Education Professional (CHEP) Certification16

Employees of career-oriented institutions seeking excellence in their 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 post-secondary career education.

National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT)17

The National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) credential is a voluntary, advanced teaching certification in the United States. It signifies accomplished teaching practice as assessed through rigorous, performance-based assessments. NBCTs demonstrate deep content knowledge, effective teaching practices, and commitment to student learning. They are recognized for their excellence in education.

Additional Resources for Higher Education Professionals

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 using resources well, students and working professionals learn about the latest changes or updates 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, etc. 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 on 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 and 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.

FAQs About Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs

What is a master’s in higher education?

A master’s 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 do a higher education degree?

Can I teach with a master’s in higher education?

Master’s in education vs. master’s in higher education – what’s the difference?

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