Doctorate in Higher Education Program Guide

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Published on June 15, 2021

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Professionals with a doctorate in higher education possess the skills and knowledge needed to identify problems and opportunities and make improvements within the field of higher education. They may work as teachers, researchers, administrators, or leaders in colleges and universities or pursue careers with organizations in the higher education industry in general.

While the career opportunities are significant, with U.S. education market projections approaching $2 trillion by 2025, choosing the right school and type of doctorate in higher education can be difficult.

In this guide, we highlight these programs in detail, covering different degree options, career pathways, and considerations that prospective students should keep in mind.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Higher Education?

As the terminal degree in the field, a doctorate in higher education prepares graduates for postsecondary teaching and research careers, along with senior leadership and management positions in the industry. The flexible training allows students to choose their educational and professional specialization based on their interests and career goals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% growth for postsecondary teachers and 4% growth for postsecondary education administrators between 2019 and 2029. In terms of earnings, both of these career paths make median annual wages that more than double the median annual salary for all occupations.

The flexible training allows students to choose their educational and professional specialization based on their interests and career goals.

Yet, this level of education may not be for everyone, as these programs can take 3-7 years to complete and can be difficult, demanding, and costly. Prospective students need to ensure that they can commit the appropriate amount of time and energy to their studies prior to enrolling.

Life after graduation should be another consideration for prospective students. Many postsecondary teachers, researchers, administrators, and leaders need to maintain their studies and research to keep their skills and knowledge current and their credentials valid.

What Can I Expect from a Doctorate in Higher Education Program?

The curriculum for a doctorate in higher education varies by program, student choices, and degree type. Many programs, however, feature some common core courses, such as issues in postsecondary education, classroom management, learning technologies, and advanced research methods. Learners often fill out their remaining schedules with classes that help inform their research and specialization.

Prospective students typically choose between two types of doctorate in higher education: a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. Ph.D. learners develop original research based on theoretical analysis, whereas Ed.D. degree-seekers solve practice-based problems to find solutions for organizations and institutions.

The two degrees also provide different skills, as Ph.D. students work more with research and writing and develop skills relevant to scholarship and teaching, while Ed.D. students acquire more practical skills. As a result, graduates tend to move in different directions. Ph.D. graduates often find employment in academia, while Ed.D. graduates work for schools and organizations in administration and management.

Concentrations

Higher Education Administration

Higher education administration concentrations prepare students for careers in various administrative settings, including finance, human resources, academic advising, and program management. Studies may also delve into campus safety and student affairs.

Innovative Teaching

This concentration explores the breakthroughs in teaching innovation and the newest ways to increase student engagement, concentration, and retention. Coursework may also examine curriculum development, analysis methods, and online learning styles.

School Leadership

In this concentration, students learn how to manage operations within various levels and types of schools. They look at the different responsibilities, learning technologies, and administrative duties involved and gain skills in leadership, strategic thinking, and educational reform.

Education Policy Analysis

In this concentration, students review education policy at various levels, learning the processes for policy development, implementation, and change. They examine issues in the field and try their hand at evaluating and developing policies.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology concentrations examine the ways in which information passes between teachers and students. Coursework may explore learning disabilities or challenges, learning styles, and information retention.

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How to Choose a Higher Education Doctoral Program

Choosing a doctorate in higher education requires students to think about their career interests and goals. They can pick a degree type more easily if they know they want to work as teachers and researchers or administrators and leaders. From there, prospective students should ensure the curriculum, faculty, and school facilities meet their needs.

Delivery format, program length, travel requirements, and cost should also come into play. Pursuing an online doctorate in higher education can help expand options, but online learners also need to think about residency requirements and accessibility. Finally, prospective students should always ensure their school and program hold the proper accreditation.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctorate in Higher Education Programs

Prospective students need to consider both regional and programmatic accreditation when pursuing a doctorate in higher education. Regional accreditation recognizes the institutions that provide programs and services that meet the standards of their region. Schools without this accreditation may lose access to federal financial aid, and graduates may struggle to find employment.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation provides accreditation for doctoral programs in higher education. This process ensures that educator preparation programs provide students with adequate training and help maintain the quality of the education system overall. In addition to employment and financial aid, accreditation can impact postgraduate certification and licensure eligibility.

How to Get Into a Higher Education Doctoral Program

Admission requirements vary by program, but doctoral programs in higher education require a master's degree for admission. Programs may also require a minimum 3.0 GPA and 2-5 years of relevant experience.

Additional requirements may include a statement of purpose outlining the applicant's research interests and career goals, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores. Though rarer, some programs may require prospective students to complete an interview.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Higher Education?

Most graduates with a doctorate in higher education pursue careers in education, either on the research and academic side or the administration and management side. They may teach future higher education professionals or conduct the research that improves the education system.

They may also lead schools and improve outcomes for learners or manage an educational organization that better supports educators and classrooms. The following list highlights some of the more popular career paths available to professionals with a doctorate in higher education, though many more options are possible.

Popular Career Paths

Educational Leadership Higher Education Teaching Special Education Business Management

How Much Money Can I Make With a Doctorate in Higher Education?

Depending on the field, salaries available to graduates with a doctorate in higher education range from $80,000-$100,000. According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers make a median annual salary of $80,790, whereas postsecondary education administrators earn $97,500 per year. The top 10% of earners in both fields make more than $180,000 annually.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Higher Education Prepares For

Certified Higher Education Professional

The Certified Higher Education Professional's various credentials recognize career educators with advanced training and expertise. Certification is available in teaching, leadership, admissions, and campus operations. Candidates must pass each course in the program curriculum to obtain the credential.

AASA National Superintendent Certification

School superintendents looking to improve their knowledge and boost their credentials can pursue national superintendent certification. Covered topics include community building, communication plans, promoting the school, and legislative advocacy.

Education Administrator Licensure

Educational administrators typically need licensure to work in the public school system, though these requirements usually apply to the high school level and below. Every state features its own rules, so aspiring administrators should check with their local board of education to identify requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Higher Education Programs

What is higher education?

Higher education is the level of training above high school, usually comprising colleges, universities, and professional schools. Students typically complete multiple years of training in higher education schools and receive degrees or diplomas upon completion.

Is a Ph.D. in higher education worth it?

A Ph.D. in higher education can be worthwhile for students who wish to teach the subject of higher education in colleges or universities or work in research. Since a Ph.D. is the minimum requirement for a postsecondary teaching position, these programs can prove crucial to future opportunities.

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in higher education?

The cost of a doctorate in higher education can vary, with the average price of a Ph.D. ranging from $28,000-$40,000, according to World Education Services. Since Ed.D. programs often require fewer credits and feature shorter completion times, they may result in lower tuition rates.

Is a Ph.D. better than an Ed.D.?

A Ph.D. and Ed.D. lead graduates down different career paths, so they both hold value for students. The former may be better for those with research and teaching interests, while the latter offers more practical training and career options.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in higher education?

Earning a doctorate in higher education can take 3-7 years depending on the student and program. Some programs offer part-time study, which can extend program length, whereas an online doctorate in higher education may offer an accelerated timeline.

How much money does a teacher with a doctorate make?

According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers make a median annual wage of $80,790. The top 10% of earners in the field make more than $180,360 per year. Postsecondary teachers in education earn a median annual wage of $65,440, though this figure includes professionals without doctoral degrees.

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