Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

TBS Staff Writers
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Updated January 3, 2024
Find the best master's in higher education online with our list of top rated online programs.

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Master’s in higher education programs prepare graduates for administrative roles in colleges and universities.

Learners gain the skills and knowledge needed to make important decisions, manage budgets, and handle staffing needs.

Graduates enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for postsecondary education administrators to grow 4% between 2022 and 2032 — as fast as the national average for all occupations. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $99,940, with the top 10% of earners making more than $196,420 during the same timeframe.

This guide ranks the top online master’s in higher education programs. We also cover important information for prospective students, such as common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

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The Best Online Master’s in Higher Education Degree Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Pennsylvania State University World Campus

  • Location-markerUniversity Park, PA
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$13,484
  • Out-of-state$13,484
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled0
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Florida International University

  • Location-markerMiami, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,721
  • Out-of-state$16,529
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate58%
  • Students Enrolled58,711
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment68%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Appalachian State University

  • Location-markerBoone, NC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,242
  • Out-of-state$19,049
  • Retention Rate88%
  • Acceptance Rate77%
  • Students Enrolled19,280
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment23%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Stony Brook University

  • Location-markerStony Brook, NY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,070
  • Out-of-state$24,740
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate44%
  • Students Enrolled26,814
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment22%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Mississippi College

  • Location-markerClinton, MS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$17,550
  • Out-of-state$17,550
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate42%
  • Students Enrolled4,733
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment56%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

The University of North Texas

  • Location-markerDenton, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,295
  • Out-of-state$18,423
  • Retention Rate79%
  • Acceptance Rate74%
  • Students Enrolled39,336
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment49%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

John Brown University

  • Location-markerSiloam Springs, AR
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,458
  • Out-of-state$26,458
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled2,319
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment33%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

The University of Iowa

  • Location-markerIowa City, IA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,073
  • Out-of-state$30,036
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate83%
  • Students Enrolled31,240
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment50%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Abilene Christian University

  • Location-markerAbilene, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$36,250
  • Out-of-state$36,250
  • Retention Rate79%
  • Acceptance Rate61%
  • Students Enrolled5,292
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment37%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Missouri Baptist University

  • Location-markerSaint Louis, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,860
  • Out-of-state$26,860
  • Retention Rate71%
  • Acceptance Rate61%
  • Students Enrolled5,309
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment34%
  • AccreditationYes
#11 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Sam Houston State University

  • Location-markerHuntsville, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,856
  • Out-of-state$15,984
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate83%
  • Students Enrolled21,558
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment53%
  • AccreditationYes
#12 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

West Virginia University

  • Location-markerMorgantown, WV
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,976
  • Out-of-state$25,320
  • Retention Rate79%
  • Acceptance Rate84%
  • Students Enrolled26,839
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment34%
  • AccreditationYes
#13 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

The University of Louisville

  • Location-markerLouisville, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$11,732
  • Out-of-state$27,758
  • Retention Rate80%
  • Acceptance Rate69%
  • Students Enrolled21,670
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment12%
  • AccreditationYes
#14 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

Central Washington University

  • Location-markerEllensburg, WA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,318
  • Out-of-state$21,999
  • Retention Rate71%
  • Acceptance Rate85%
  • Students Enrolled11,658
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment92%
  • AccreditationYes
#15 Best Online Master’s in Higher Education

McKendree University

  • Location-markerLebanon, IL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$30,540
  • Out-of-state$30,540
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate63%
  • Students Enrolled2,292
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment47%
  • AccreditationYes

Best Online Masters

Higher Education

2023


The Best Schools

Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Choosing an Online Master’s in Higher Education Program

When researching prospective master’s in higher education programs, students should consider factors like cost, transfer policies, and on-campus requirements. We cover several important considerations for students below.

  • Program Cost: Public schools typically cost less than private schools, and in-state students often pay less than out-of-state students. However, some programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of residency.
  • Transfer Policies: Many schools offer transfer credit for things like prior academic work, professional experience, and military training. Schools with generous transfer policies can help students with relevant prior experience save time and money on a degree.
  • School Size and Type: A school’s size and type affects the learning experience. For example, small schools may offer more individualized attention from faculty than larger schools, but larger schools may have more program and class options.
  • Program Length: Learners who follow a traditional path typically graduate with a master’s in higher education in two years. However, some programs offer accelerated timelines.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Some online programs still have on-campus requirements. Students should ensure they can meet these requirements before committing to a program.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Many programs require a thesis or internship, both of which require a significant time investment. Students should choose a program that has requirements aligned with their career goals.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master’s in Higher Education Program?

An online master’s in higher education administration program gives students knowledge and skills that translate to a variety of administrative and academic careers. Many programs offer electives that allow students to specialize their skills and tailor the degree to their goals. The following section covers several common courses found in master’s in higher education programs.

Online Master’s in Higher Education Curriculum

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Higher Education Degree Programs

When researching prospective online master’s in higher education programs, students should check accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and credits from accredited institutions.

Schools may hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. For example, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission accredit master’s in higher education programs.

Students can verify a school’s accreditation status through the Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Higher Education Careers

Graduates with an online master’s in higher education qualify for a variety of fulfilling careers. The following list outlines several common careers for graduates of higher education master’s programs; however, some roles may require additional education or certification.

Students who want to learn more about education degrees can review detailed information through The Best Schools’ guide.

Higher Education Professional Organizations

Master’s in higher education students and professionals can take advantage of professional organizations to enhance their careers. The following organizations offer benefits such as professional development, continuing education, and networking opportunities.

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

AACRAO supports higher education professionals working in student records and admissions. The organization hosts annual events and training programs, industry resources, in-house research and publications, and advocacy efforts. Members can also search for open jobs and receive career advice.

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators

NASPA brings together student affairs administrators to provide opportunities for shared learning and professional support. Members can access national conferences and institutes, regional and community events, focus area research and resources, and regional community groups.

Council for Advancement and Support of Education

CASE is a global member association focused on supporting higher education professionals in alumni relations, development and marketing, communications, and student advancement. The group provides conferences and training workshops, industry resources, annual awards, and career information. It also organizes regional and district chapters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Graduates with a master’s in higher education qualify for administrative positions in postsecondary institutions. They may oversee departments like student affairs, admissions, or student programming.

It typically takes two years of full-time study to earn a master’s degree in higher education, though some programs offer accelerated timelines.

Postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual salary of $94,340 in 2018. However, salary varies with factors like location, institution, and experience.

A master’s degree in higher education is a professional program that prepares students for administrative roles in postsecondary institutions.


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