The Best Online Master’s in Higher Education
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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 7% between 2018 and 2028 — faster than the national average for all occupations. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $94,340 in 2018, with the top 10% of earners making more than $190,600 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.
|#1||Penn State World Campus University Park, PA|
|#2||Florida International University Miami, FL|
|#3||University of Houston Houston, TX|
|#4||Appalachian State University Boone, NC|
|#5||Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY|
|#6||Michigan State University East Lansing, MI|
|#7||Mississippi College Clinton, MS|
|#8||University of North Texas Denton, TX|
|#9||John Brown University Siloam Springs, AR|
|#10||University of Iowa Iowa City, IA|
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Master’s in Higher Education Degree Programs
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
Typically taken in the first semester, this foundational course explores how higher education has evolved throughout history. Learners consider how higher education administration has shifted over time and examine current trends and issues affecting the field.
This course examines the legal structures and regulations underpinning postsecondary education in the United States. Learners study federal regulations that affect funding, student enrollment, and accessibility. They also examine how nonprofit status affects organizational governance.
Students in this class gain the skills needed to manage higher education budgets. They learn how to manage state appropriations, work with fundraising departments, and follow best practices in financial management and employee compensation.
This course teaches students how to design and implement college-level curricula. Students also review various methodologies used in curriculum design and course development, with an emphasis on best practices in teaching and learning.
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.
|Median Salary (2019): $94,340||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 7%|
These professionals oversee the administrative aspects of a postsecondary institution. They may work in departments like admissions or student services, overseeing staff, managing daily operations, and setting short- and long-term goals.
Postsecondary education administrators need at least a master's degree, though provosts and deans may need a doctorate. They must know how to effectively interact with diverse groups of people, solve problems, and motivate staff.
|Median Salary (2019): $114,800||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 8%|
Public relations managers help craft and maintain a college or university's public image. These professionals designate spokespeople for media inquiries, train staff on how to present information to the public, and write press releases about new initiatives.
Public relations managers need at least a bachelor's degree, though some advanced roles may require a master's degree. These professionals must remain calm under pressure and understand how to create messaging campaigns that appeal to a wide audience.
|Median Salary (2019): $57,700||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 1%|
Survey researchers in higher education collect student, alumni, and staff data to help improve a college or university. They may collect information like employee fulfillment, salary expectations, and career goals. They may also ask students how they feel about their professors, classes, extracurricular activities, and overall experience.
Survey researchers need at least a bachelor's degree, but some positions require an advanced degree. These professionals need advanced training in statistical analysis and raw data management and the ability to manage long-term projects to completion.
|Median Salary (2019): $78,470||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 11%|
College professors instruct students at postsecondary institutions. They deliver class lectures, create assignments and examinations, advise students, and grade papers. These professionals may also conduct and publish their own research.
College professors typically need a doctorate, though some institutions may accept a master's degree. They need strong time-management, communication, presentation, and research skills.
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.
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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