Online Higher Education Administration Graduate Programs

Learn about online higher education administration graduate programs. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Obtaining an administrative position at a college or university calls for a master's or doctoral degree. Many graduate-level programs in higher education administration can be completed fully or partially through online study. Online programs are conducive to the schedules of working professionals, allowing them to view lessons at any time, within established deadlines.

A bachelor's degree is required for admission to a master's program in higher education administration. Students explore the role of research, and a thesis may be required. Master's degree programs are available entirely online.

In a doctoral program, students learn the leadership skills required for upper-level administration positions at a college or university. While students can take courses online, some programs call for attendance at on-campus residencies seminars. Researching and writing a dissertation is an important part of a doctoral program, and students will need to visit campus to defend their dissertations. A graduate degree and professional experience is needed to enroll in a doctoral program.

Master's Degree - Higher Education Administration

An online master's program in higher education administration is designed for individuals currently working in or wishing to transition into professional roles within a variety of higher education settings, including administration leadership, student affairs, teaching or educational assessment. Students develop skills and acquire knowledge in such areas as educational law, change management, educational politics, and educational funding. Programs explore the role of institutional research and strategic planning in institutions of higher learning. Assessment and evaluation of academic programs, including accreditation processes and standards, are also introduced.

Program Information

A master's degree in higher education administration can be completed entirely online with no residency components required. Students are expected to complete approximately 36-40 credit hours of coursework combining core competencies requirements with elective courses. Through elective courses students have the opportunity to focus on specialty areas within higher education administration, including instructional administration, distance education, student affairs or teaching. This type of online program can typically be completed within two years.

Online courses are usually conducted asynchronously, allowing students the flexibility to access and virtually attend class at their convenience. Course content, assignments and materials are usually accessed through course management software, such as Blackboard. Students are required to have high-speed Internet and e-mail access. Depending on the program, interaction with faculty and classmates is required through online discussion boards, live chat sessions and online video conferencing.

Common Coursework for a Master's Degree in Higher Education Administration

Online coursework integrates a variety of courses in topics specific to higher education, such as management-level leadership, finance, fundraising and change management. Courses focus on core competencies and practical application of concepts and theories critical to leadership in higher education.

Introduction to Higher Education Administration

Course content presents contemporary issues of higher education. Focus is placed on the historical, sociological and philosophical forces that affect higher education from an administrative perspective.

Organization and Governance in Higher Education Administration

This online course provides a general overview of higher education institutions. Emphasis is placed on models of institutional governance, higher education constituencies and academic organization.

Leading Change in High Education

Students study leadership theories and concepts applicable to implementing organizational change. The interpersonal dynamic of working with and leading teams is discussed.

Doctorate Program in Higher Education Leadership

Online doctoral programs in higher education leadership can lead to either a Doctor of Education or a Ph.D. depending on the institution. This type of program is typically designed for higher education faculty or administrators pursuing advanced positions in the field, such as student service director, provost, academic dean, vice president or president at major universities and colleges. In addition to academic undergraduate and graduate degree requirements, applicants are often required to have at least five years professional work experience in higher education administration. Students learn about the foundation and history, learning environment and organizational needs of higher education institutions.

Program Information

This type of higher education graduate program requires approximately 60-90 credit hours of combined higher education administrative coursework, dissertation research and dissertation defense. Although the majority of coursework can be completed online, some programs require students to visit campus for 1-week intensive sessions as often as once or twice a year. Students are also usually required to visit campus at the conclusion of the program to present their completed dissertation. Students can expect degree completion to take 4-5 years.

Online courses are conducted through secure learning software, such as Blackboard or RamCT, accessed using a high-speed Internet connection. Many programs provide live or pre-recorded video streaming of lectures from on-campus programs. In addition to attending class virtually, students are expected to communicate with faculty and their fellow students through e-mail, online discussion boards and phone conferencing.

Common Coursework for a Doctoral Degree in Higher Education Leadership

Online coursework for this type of graduate program develops research knowledge and skills that enable administrators to reinforce their commitment to expand the knowledge base and diversity of higher education institutions. Courses explore ways to strengthen educational outcomes, accessibility and quality.

Higher Education Law

This course examines the current legal theory that guides today's operations of higher education institutions. Students are asked to analyze and review cases relevant to contemporary higher education.

Student Development Theory

Students become more familiar with the processes and procedures involved in the practice of student affairs. Emphasis is placed on effective strategies for applying student development theories.

Funding in Higher Education

Instruction provides students with the knowledge needed to strategically evaluate funding and budgetary challenges often faced in higher education. Topics include the various funding sources, including Federal Title grant, support from alumni groups, and tuition revenue.


Career Information

Graduates with a master's degree in higher education administration are prepared for positions in a variety of college settings, including admissions, student services, alumni relations and institutional advancement. Other job opportunities are available with educational associations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations serving the educational sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment opportunities for education administrators in postsecondary institutions to grow by 9 percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, higher education administrators in the U.S. earned an average annual wage of $102,610 as of May 2015.

Individuals with a Ph.D. in higher education leadership are prepared for upper-level management positions within higher education settings, such as university department heads, chief academic officers, deans of faculty or top student affairs positions. According to the BLS, the industries with the highest levels of employment for postsecondary education administrators include colleges, universities, and professional schools. Junior colleges also provide employment opportunities. The annual mean wage earned by education administrators employed by colleges, universities and professional schools was reported by the BLS in May of 2015 to be $106,650.

Individuals who want to advance to administrative positions at institutions of higher education can enroll in an online master's degree program or a hybrid-format doctoral program, both of which combine graduate-level research with advanced coursework in educational leadership. Because distance learning options provide greater scheduling flexibility than on-campus versions, students may continue to work while they complete one of these degrees.

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