Best Online Master’s in Higher Education Programs
We've ranked the top online master's in higher education programs. Compare schools and figure out where you can earn your master's in higher education online.
Updated June 10, 2022
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College enrollment numbers decreased steadily between 2009 and 2019, and the COVID-19 situation lowered student body sizes even more. However, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has projected that student enrollment numbers will increase through 2029. As the number of students in higher education grows, there will be an increased demand for postsecondary administration and policy professionals.
Many of the available opportunities come at the management level, a sector the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. A master's in higher education positions you to take advantage of this demand and qualifies you to pursue various other positions in the educational field.
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Ready to start your journey?
To help you in your graduate school decision, we put together a list of the best online master's in higher education from some of the top online schools. We also explore program requirements, what the admission process entails, and what postgraduate paths may look like.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Higher Education Program?
Schools take different approaches with their online master's in higher education curriculum, but these programs generally feature between 30-45 credits and last approximately two years. These programs prepare you to handle many of the administrative and policy-related responsibilities behind the scenes at colleges and universities.
Online master's in higher education programs usually combine research with theoretical and experiential training. You study the issues facing postsecondary schools and students and look for practical, applicable solutions to common higher education challenges. You also develop leadership, project management, and curriculum skills and expertise.
When preparing for graduate school, you need to consider the different types of master's in higher education programs available. Schools may award an MA, MS, or M.Ed in this field, with each degree possibly impacting your postgraduate outcomes. While MA degrees may be more theoretical and interdisciplinary than the more technical MS degrees, M.Ed degrees are practitioner degrees and lead more directly to the workforce after graduation.
You may also get the chance to specialize your training. Some schools offer concentrations, such as leadership, administration, or international education. Without the option of a formal concentration, you might be able to create your own by choosing targeted electives, focusing your research, and choosing your practicum assignments strategically.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
Popular Online Master's in Higher Education Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Higher Education Program?
In this course, students learn how teachers, curriculum coordinators, and other leaders in colleges and universities evaluate the effectiveness of programs. They may explore methods for assessing student outcomes and retention.
Financial Management in Higher Education
This course teaches students how to evaluate current income streams and expenses in colleges and universities. They look at ways of using data and quantitative analysis to inform future financial decisions.
Contemporary Issues in Higher Education
Students in this course learn about current issues in college and university systems. This may include topics such as academic freedom, degree inflation, adjunct labor, teaching methods, and accessible curriculum design.
Higher Education Marketing
This course teaches students how universities and colleges attract students and manage their admissions processes. They look at how various factors, such as academic assistance and financial aid can influence student enrollment and retention.
This course focuses on how students develop and what factors influence this process. Degree-seekers may look at ways that administrative processes and student services can make an impact on students' growth and success.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Higher Education Program?
While the admission requirements for online master's programs may vary slightly, schools generally admit applicants who hold a bachelor's degree. Some of the more competitive schools may set GPA minimums or require a specific undergraduate degree.
In the following section, we look at the most common application components, according to our graduate admissions guide.
While each school puts its own spin on their college application, most applicants need to submit some combination of the items below. While college application systems can help streamline the process for prospective students applying to multiple schools, many master's candidates apply directly to their school and program of choice.
Under normal circumstances, schools use standardized test scores to help differentiate between applicants. Prospective students can boost their admission chances by completing GRE prep. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many schools have offered test waivers to avoid forcing students into classrooms and testing centers.
Letters of Recommendation
Most applications ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation to gain insight into the applicant. References usually include former teachers and supervisors in relevant fields. When asking for letters of recommendation, prospective students should give their references as much time as possible.
Resume and Work Experience
Many schools and programs require master's degree applicants to submit a professional resume to gather information about the applicant's employment history. At the master's level, prospective students sometimes need to demonstrate a specific amount of relevant experience. This helps assure schools that the candidates have the necessary foundations and practical skills in place.
Applicants must also submit a grad school application essay, or "statement of purpose." While the precise format will vary according to program, many schools want applicants to address their educational and research interests at the graduate level.
Almost all applications require official transcripts. Schools use these records to identify how students fared in their previous training, if they meet the program's GPA requirements, and if they have the appropriate prerequisites.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Higher Education Degree?
Despite decreasing student numbers after 2009, the NCES has projected gradual growth in student enrollment numbers through 2029. Not only would increased enrollment create demand for higher education administrative professionals, but changing student demographics could lead to increased demand for certain positions, as well.
For example, the number of Hispanic students grew 48% between 2009 and 2019, according to the NCES. And the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on online learning may also result in lasting demand for certain administrative roles.
In a master's in higher education program, you will explore these trends and prepare for the future of postsecondary training. You might work in college marketing, curriculum design, or student support services, among many other areas. Below, we highlight some of the more common career paths available to you after graduation.
Check out where a master's in higher education can take you. Learn more about higher education careers.
Postsecondary Education Administrator
These professionals oversee many of the administrative duties in colleges and universities, including finances, student services, and admissions. They may help develop support services and programs for learners or maintain student records. They can also create student experience programs and services.
Median Annual Salary: $97,500
Administrative Services and Facilities Manager
These professionals handle an organization's facilities and services, including supplies, technology, and staffing needs. These managers may take care of health and safety standards and protocols as well. They may also oversee record-keeping duties, including finances and student records.
Median Annual Salary: $98,890
These professionals create educational lesson plans and programs for teachers and schools. They develop assessment materials based on desired learning outcomes and regional and board standards. Coordinators also integrate new content, teaching techniques, and technologies into curricula.
Median Annual Salary: $66,970
Training and Development Specialists
These professionals develop and run training programs for organizations, incorporating various professional development strategies and technologies. They create programs based on organizational needs and create all the necessary materials. They often determine training needs through surveys and assessments, and they may also evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs.
Median Annual Salary: $62,700
High School Principals
These professionals manage the daily activities and operations in their schools. They help implement regional policies and standards, develop curriculums, and oversee student test and achievement reporting. Principals also manage the staffing and training needs of their school, along with many other operational and administrative duties.
Median Annual Salary: $98,490
Higher Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
After a master's in higher education, graduates often continue their educational journey with a doctorate in higher education. Graduates may explore related disciplines as well, expanding their field of expertise or specializing in a certain subfield.
Some specialized programs could include a doctorate in curriculum and instruction or a doctorate in educational administration. Interdisciplinary program options may include a doctorate in education or a doctorate in organizational leadership. Doctoral degrees can lead to postsecondary teaching, research and development, and policy-making careers.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Higher Education Program?
According to the NCES, the average graduate student paid $19,792 in tuition and fees in 2019-20. When evaluating programs and schools, you should consider the true program cost, which incorporates all fees and lost income as a result of your training. You should also compare online and on-campus program costs, in-state and out-of-state costs, and private and public school costs.
You should choose the program format that best aligns with your scheduling needs. You may pick synchronous or asynchronous delivery depending on your flexibility. Many schools offer both full-time and part-time student schedules for working professionals and those hoping to graduate more quickly.
Whether you are attending college online or on-campus, you should think about location when picking a school. On-campus learners need to choose a school location they can live near or travel to regularly. Online learners also need the right location, as they may need to satisfy on-campus requirements.
According to our online college accreditation guide, you should pay close attention to your school's accreditation status. This ensures you have access to adequate financial aid and employment opportunities. You can find a list of accredited schools and programs in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
When choosing your school and program, you should also look at the available student services. Schools with online programs typically have similar online student services for their remote learners. Common offerings include career services, academic support, and internship programs. Having access to tutors, advisors, wellness counselors, and college mentors can foster student success.
Best Accredited Online Master's in Higher Education Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Higher Education Programs
Is a master's in higher education worth it?
Yes. A master's in higher education provides many benefits to students and graduates. The flexible degree gives students plenty of study and specialization options, along with various career opportunities. Learners can take their education and career in different directions based on their interests and goals.
Students can also find value in an online degree, such as added flexibility and reduced travel requirements. Online learning gives students more school and program options to choose from, which can help them find lower tuition rates and more suitable program offerings.
What can I do with a master's in higher education?
With a master's in higher education, graduates can pursue many education careers. The most direct career paths are in postsecondary administration. Graduates can work in admissions, finance, or student engagement. Various other educational leadership positions exist, such as principals, deans, and curriculum coordinators.
Graduates may continue their education as well. They may choose to pursue a doctoral degree in higher education or a related field, which can open up teaching careers at the postsecondary level.
Are higher education graduates in demand?
Yes. Graduates with a master's in higher education are in demand. The BLS projects 8% growth in postsecondary administrators between 2020-2030, which works out to more than 13,000 new jobs during that time. Additionally, the BLS projects approximately 14,500 annual openings to fill the general turnover in the field.
How much money can I make with a master's in higher education?
Professionals with a master's in higher education have access to various career paths and salaries. The most direct route leads to a career as a postsecondary administrator. This position posted median annual wages of $97,500 in May 2020, as per the BLS.
Other career options include administrative services and facilities managers, who made median annual wages of $93,510 in the education industry in May 2020. On the lower end of the scale, instructional coordinators earned median annual wages of $62,950 in colleges and universities in May 2020.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in higher education?
The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in higher education most likely are in the postsecondary administration field. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for professionals in this field was $97,500 in May 2020.
Postsecondary administrators who worked at colleges and universities earned median annual wages of $100,060 in May 2020, according to the BLS, while those who worked at junior colleges made a median of $90,470. The top 10% of all postsecondary administrators made over $199,400.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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