In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 9% job growth rate in positions for higher education administrators between 2014 and 2024, making this an excellent time to secure one of more than 15,000 new jobs opening in the field. Unlike many other fields, careers in higher education require specialized credentials. A typical entry-level job requires at least a master's degree, and advancement to top-level positions requires a doctorate. The information below outlines how to select the right program, presents profiles of top programs, and answers other questions relevant to pursuing a higher education doctorate.
Choosing a Program
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
Many programs require at least two years of related work experience. However, some doctorate programs in higher education accept students immediately out of undergraduate studies, but require students to take master's level classes before moving on to doctoral work. Such programs do not expect recent undergraduates to have much work experience in the field.
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?
Different programs have different emphases in higher administration. Therefore, the first step to selecting the right program is to evaluate one's interests and career goals. Those interested in senior administration roles may find an Ed.D. more appropriate, while a Ph.D is fitting for students wanting careers in education research. Students should also consider their personal and professional schedules, as some online doctoral programs require on campus residencies.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION?
Yes. Online doctorate in higher education programs are designed for mid-level working professionals in education or higher education fields. Students typically take only two courses per semester, and the flexibility of taking classes online ensures they can keep up with their full-time jobs. However, students should be aware that some online doctoral programs require short on campus residencies and/or semester-long internships.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY DOCTORATE ONLINE?
Earning your doctorate online can help you earn your degree at your own pace as you maintain a full-time job and/or personal obligations. Online doctorate programs are taught by the same distinguished faculty as on-campus programs, providing online students the same quality education, but in a way that helps them maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Accredited Online Doctorate in Higher Education Programs
|Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI||Cost: $$$$$||
Located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, along the southwestern tip of the Great Lakes State, Andrews University focuses on rigorous scholarship and quality research by promoting intellectual discovery and critical inquiry. Founded in 1874 as Battle Creek College, Andrews now stands as the flagship institution of the Seventh-Day Adventist school system in North America. This private, nonprofit school confers graduate, undergraduate, and doctoral degrees across its eight schools and colleges, including a doctor of education in higher education administration.
Learners typically complete this 61-credit Ed.D. in higher education online in five years or less, going on to assume entry- and mid-level positions at public and private institutions. The course of study delivers all content online through various synchronous and asynchronous formats that allow busy degree seekers and working professionals to access material at a time and place convenient for them. This doctorate in higher education online covers the practices, policies, and contemporary debates faced by colleges and universities while also providing learners with many opportunities to refine their managerial and leadership skills.
Eligible applicants to this online doctorate in higher education must hold a relevant graduate degree from an accredited institution with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3. Interested learners must also submit recent GRE scores received within the last five years as well as two letters of recommendation and a brief statement of purpose outlining professional and academic goals. Andrews maintains regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO||Cost: $$$$$||
A public research university located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Colorado State University serves more than 30,000 learners each year across eight different colleges and over 50 academic departments. Founded in 1870 as Colorado's primary land-grant university, CSU advances its mission of promoting excellence in higher education by championing the core values of inclusion, responsibility and leadership. CSU's online Ph.D. in higher education ranks among the many programs that exhibit these values, standing as an ideal option for degree seekers interested in furthering their careers in the field.
This 60-credit doctorate in higher education onlinecan be completed in five years or less and prepares advanced-level learners for enriching professional work as administrative leaders in the industry. CSU's program boasts a 95% retention rate, much higher than the national average, and delivers all course content online. Convenient synchronous learning modules allow degree seekers to further their education without interrupting outside professional commitments. The course of study covers foundations of educational research, higher education finance, program evaluation, and policy analysis. Learners also complete a dissertation project that offers original research contributions to the field.
Eligible applicants to CSU's Ph.D. in higher education onlinemust possess a relevant master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. They must also hold at least two years of professional work experience in higher education. Applicants must submit current GRE scores, a brief statement of purpose, and at least three letters of recommendation. CSU maintains regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN||Cost: $$$$$||
Founded in 1865 by the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana State University offers over 175 graduate and undergraduate degrees. Located along the Wabash River Valley in Terre Haute, Indiana, ISU promotes public education and the common good across the Hoosier State and throughout the world. For interested learners, ISU offers an attractive Ph.D. in educational administration with a specialization in higher education leadership.
Attainable in as few as two years, this 90-credit Ph.D. in higher education online equips learners for coveted leadership positions in collegiate institutions. Designed with working professionals in the field in mind, ISU's program provides a quality educational experience that emphasizes the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes necessary for further career advancement. Degree seekers engage with a cohort-based curriculum delivered across online learning formats and intensive on-campus workshops, as they study the history and philosophical foundations of the field as well as contemporary challenges faced by leaders in the industry. Coursework in this doctorate in higher education online pairs with integrative internship experiences that familiarize learners with at least three different areas of administrative work in the field.
ISU's online doctorate in higher education boasts a convenient and uncomplicated admissions process. Eligible learners possessing an accredited graduate degree need only submit recent GRE scores, a brief statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. ISU holds regional and programmatic accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
|Maryville University St. Louis, MO||Cost: $$$$$||
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Maryville University provides comprehensive and innovative education focused on student learning, measurable outcomes, and continued future success. Founded in 1872 and standing as one of the oldest private institutions in the region, Maryville offers over 90 degree programs with small class sizes and enjoys a 97% career placement rate. An attractive online doctor of education in higher education leadership ranks among these programs as an ideal option for learners interested in further professional development.
Maryville's Ed.D. in higher education online consists of just 16 courses, allowing learners to complete the program in as few as 32 months. This cohort-based course of study uses online learning formats to combine theory and practice, making the program both relevant and applicable. Learners explore modern administrative dynamics in higher education as they work to become collaborative thought leaders in the field, gaining valuable expertise in the social, political, and business aspects of the profession. Covering topics like educational research methods, strategic change and innovation, and performance accountability, degree seekers finish Maryville's online doctorate in higher education prepared to assume positions as administrators, department chairs, and academic deans.
Learners eligible for this program must hold a relevant master's degree and a minimum of three years of professional experience in the field prior to admission. They must also submit recent GRE scores, a short personal essay, and two professional letters of recommendation. Along with these materials, applicants must provide official academic transcripts for prior work indicating a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Maryville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its education programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
|Notre Dame of Maryland University Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||
Notre Dame of Maryland University offers pioneering educational experiences with a decisive focus on social justice. Founded in 1873 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame as a women's college, NDMU advances its mission of instilling intellectual and professional excellence by promoting inclusion, service, and social responsibility. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, NDMU offers an enticing Ph.D. in higher education leadership for changing populations.
NDMU's degree stands out among online doctoral programs in higher educationdue to its affordability and convenience. Offering economical tuition rates and delivering all course content online, the course of study prepares degree seekers for gainful careers as university administrators, educational researchers, and academic learning officers. Exploring subjects such as democracy and education, governance in higher education, and curriculum development, learners also gain valuable hands-on experience in practice and policy. This Ph.D. in higher education online culminates with a dissertation project in which degree seekers conduct independent, original research specific to the field.
Eligible applicants to this online doctorate in higher educationmust hold a relevant graduate degree from an accredited institution. They must also submit recent GRE scores, a brief personal statement, and two letters of recommendation. NDMU maintains regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||
Founded in 1964 as a chartered institution for graduate studies in the physical and social sciences, Nova Southeastern University now offers more than 150 programs of study across 18 different schools and colleges. A private, research-based university located in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU promotes intellectual inquiry, academic excellence, and responsible leadership. For learners interested in advancing these values in higher education, NSU offers a valuable, rigorous doctor of education in higher education leadership.
Most degree seekers complete NSU's 54-credit program in as few as three years, going on to accept gainful, enriching leadership positions as educators, managers, and higher education administrators. This Ed.D. in higher education online uses convenient distance education delivery options that let learners and busy working professionals complete their education without long commutes or work disruption. Degree seekers explore the ins and outs of student affairs in higher education, inquiry-based learning, institutional budgeting and finance, and comparative higher education. An original dissertation project constitutes the culminating capstone for this online doctorate in higher education,giving learners the opportunity to make innovative research contributions to the field.
Degree seekers eligible for NSU's doctorate in higher education online must possess a relevant master's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. They must also submit recent GRE scores, a brief personal statement of goals, and two professional letters of recommendation. NSU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its college of education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
|Regent University Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||
A private, Christian research university based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Regent University confers more than 130 graduate and undergraduate degrees through eight academic schools. Founded in 1978 as an institution designed to promote educational excellence from a Christian perspective, Regent is now home to over 10,000 learners each year, including those enrolled in the school's doctor of education in higher education.
Regent's Ed.D. in higher education online involves a minimum of 66 credits that most degree seekers complete within four years. A hybrid program using both synchronous and asynchronous learning formats, this degree equips learners with the expertise needed to secure high-profile job positions in higher education administration. Learners enrolled in Regent's online doctorate in higher educationstudy research design and analysis, data-driven decision making, history and contemporary issues in American higher education, and statistics interpretation. Throughout the course of study, degree seekers practice vital core skills in critical thinking, strategic planning, and scholarly research and writing.
Learners interested in applying to Regent's doctorate in higher education online must hold a relevant master's degree from an accredited institution. They must also submit to an admissions interview and complete a short questionnaire that speaks to their overall professional and academic goals. Regent maintains regional and programmatic accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, respectively.
|Saint Peter's University Englewood Cliffs, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||
Founded in 1872 by Jesuit religious leaders, Saint Peter's University champions individual attention in higher education, grounded both in the liberal arts and the Catholic tradition. A private, nonprofit institution located in Jersey City, New Jersey, Saint Peter's focuses on rigorous academic research, providing training and education to some 6,000 graduate and undergraduate learners each year. Among its programs stands Saint Peter's online doctor of education in higher education, an ideal option for degree seekers interested in honing their expertise in the field.
A 48-credit program, Saint Peter's Ed.D. in higher education online focuses on addressing critical areas of thought leadership in the industry. The course of study prepares learners to explore the tensions and pressing issues characteristic of contemporary postsecondary education. By examining subjects such as curriculum development and instruction, higher education governance and administration, and enrollment management, degree seekers develop proficiencies integral to gainful employment in the field. Saint Peter's online doctorate in higher educationdelivers all course content in these areas via flexible, web-based learning formats.
Eligible applicants to Saint Peter's course of study must submit official transcripts evidencing conferral of a relevant master's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Applicants must also submit a brief writing sample that demonstrates their writing skills and potential success in the program, as well as a current resume, a personal essay outlining their professional and academic goals, and three letters of recommendation. An additional admissions interview may also be requested. Saint Peter's maintains regional accreditation from the Middle State Commission on Higher Education.
|University of Memphis Memphis, TN||Cost: $$$$$||
Since 1912, the University of Memphis (UofM) has stood as a major public research institution, providing the highest quality education that prepares learners for success in an innovative, diverse, global environment. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, UofM promotes its values of integrity, transparency, and excellence across nearly 300 different areas of study. UofM's rigorous doctor of education in higher and adult education with a concentration in higher ed ranks among these programs as worthy option for degree seekers considering doctoral programs in higher education administration online.
This affordable, 54-credit Ed.D. in higher education online trains learners for mid- and senior-level administrative positions in postsecondary institutions and other related boards, commissions, and agencies. The program delivers all course material completely online through convenient and flexible learning modules that help degree seekers reach their personal and professional goals. UofM's online doctorate in higher educationexplores policy-oriented research, adult learning and leadership, statistics, and legal and ethical issues in higher education administration. Learners complete a dissertation or thesis project near the end of the program, conducting original research that propels them into the workforce.
Degree seekers interested in undertaking this doctorate in higher education online must submit official transcripts for all prior graduate and undergraduate academic work. They must also provide recent GRE scores, a current resume, a brief statement of personal and academic goals, and three letters of recommendation. UofM holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE||Cost: $$$$$||
Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) promotes high-quality teaching, rigorous research, and responsible service. Initially founded in 1869 as a public, land-grant institution, UNL now stands as the state's oldest university and the largest affiliate in the University of Nebraska system. For learners interested in furthering their advancement in the field, UNL offers a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. in educational studies with a specialization in educational leadership and higher education.
UNL's online doctorates in higher education attract degree seekers who aspire to hold leadership and teaching positions in postsecondary institutions. Specifically, the Ed.D. benefits those who want to become administrators in an educational organization while the Ph.D. prepares learners for a scholarly career as a faculty member. The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 6 credits in on-campus, residential seminars. Throughout the courses of study, learners examine a range of topics pertinent to the field like administrative theories, educational systems and governance, finance in higher education, and education law.
The school boasts a robust transfer process that allows learners to carry outside credit with them as they move toward degree completion. Eligible applicants to this doctorate in higher education onlinemust supply recent GRE scores along with their application. They must also provide a letter of application, a resume, three letters of recommendation, three samples of original writing or research, and a brief statement of personal and professional goals. UNL is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|Wilmington University New Castle, DE||Cost: $$$$$||
Initially founded in 1968 and located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University is a private, nonprofit research institution focusing on career-oriented educational programming. WilmU's degrees, including its doctor of education in higher education leadership, are taught by practicing faculty in the field and emphasize in-demand knowledge and skills sought by employers. These programs facilitate professional development, setting job candidates apart as they enter a growing, competitive workforce.
WilmU's Ed.D. in higher education online consists of 51 credits attainable in as few as three years. The program offers course content in hybrid and fully online formats, allowing degree seekers to customize their pace and course of study in a manner that meets their individual needs and circumstances. Learners take courses on the history of American higher education, advanced research methods, ethics and leadership in higher education, and applied inquiry. They also complete an applied inquiry research project, usually in the form of a thesis or dissertation in their specific area(s) of expertise.
Applicants eligible for this online doctorate in higher education must submit official academic transcripts verifying previous graduate and undergraduate work. They must also provide a resume, a brief written statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. WilmU holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and programmatic accreditation in the field from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Higher Education Program?
While online doctorate in higher education programs have many commonalities, none of them are exactly the same. Programs may offer or emphasize different concentrations, vary somewhat in their overall curricula and the length it takes to complete them, and may be accredited by one of a number of regional or national accrediting agencies.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE DOCTORATE DEGREE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
- Higher Education Leadership
As referenced by its name, this concentration prepares students to take on top leadership positions in higher education administration (university president, provost, academic dean, etc.). This is a comprehensive study of all higher education administration roles, versus the traditional slant that many programs place merely on student affairs and development.
Possible Career Paths: President, provost, academic dean, director of student affairs
- Higher Education Administration
This concentration prepares graduates to work in administration and/or operations across the broad spectrum of higher education institutions such as community colleges, four-year colleges, universities, and institutes. Graduates can also work at both U.S.-based and foreign institutions.
Possible Career Paths: Admissions, enrollment management, financial aid, student life
- Higher Education
A concentration in higher education prepares students to work both as a higher education administrator at a college or university, or as an analyst or researcher at an education-related government agency. However, this field is more specifically focused on student affairs.
Possible Career Paths: Policy analyst, researcher, student affairs director, residence life
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Higher education doctorate curriculums offer many similar courses. Below are five courses common to most programs, though course titles will likely vary.
History of Higher Education: This course explores the history of important themes in higher education. The curriculum also provides a foundation for coursework in nearly every aspect of higher education: administration, student affairs, university governance, academic leadership and policy, and more.
Higher Education Administration: This course explores key elements of administration and organization at institutions of higher education. This course traditionally focuses on non-academic areas and positions of administration, including the roles of university presidents and other administrators.
Statistical Methods: Serving as an introduction to the methods of collecting and presenting data that students encounter in Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs, this course introduces basic concepts of statistical models. Students familiarize themselves with distributions, probability, variables, randomness, methods of testing hypotheses, correlations, and more.
Leadership Practicum: Students apply concepts and research in real world settings through an internship in a higher education administration position. They also familiarize themselves with the role of professionals in the field while building on the skills they will need after graduation.
Dissertation: Most Ed.D. and Ph.D. in higher education programs guide students through a series of four courses designed to help them research and write their dissertations. Students typically start by formulating a prospectus, develop an outline, submit a proposal for their dissertation, and, finally, write their dissertation.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION?
Most online doctorate in higher education programs range from three to five years, though students may elect to take up to seven years to finish. There are several factors that affect the time it takes to complete the degree, including the number of program credits, whether the program is full-time or part-time, and the length of time it takes to finish a dissertation. Because topics tend to change and evolve, dissertations usually take longer than initially expected.
Whether a program is self-paced or designed as a cohort may also have an impact. Cohorts are small groups of students—typically between 15 and 25—that start and progress through the program together. Such programs are built on interactions between students so they learn from each other, and typically meet online at the same time each week. Self-paced programs also have peer interaction, but they allow students more flexibility to progress at more or less rapid rates.
Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Higher Education Programs
Accreditation is an important factor to consider when choosing an online doctorate program. There are two kinds of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is more popular, as 85% of all colleges and universities in the country are accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies. Regional accreditation is also considered more prestigious, and comes with a number of benefits like degree recognition and easy transfer of credits from one institution to another. National accreditation focuses more on professional training and vocational programs.
The doctorate programs in higher education on our list are all regionally accredited. Prospective applicants should look for programs that are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Higher Learning Commission, or one of the six regional accreditors, ACCJC, HLC, MSCHE, NEASC-CIHE, SACSCOC, and WSCUC.
Contrary to popular belief, the Department of Education does not participate in college and university accreditation. Instead, the department helps coordinate government assistance to higher ed institutions, such as financial aid. It also directs funds earmarked for education to where they are most needed.
Education is more closely managed by individual states, and accreditation is managed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Council is a body of degree-granting institutions of higher learning that certifies higher education accrediting organizations, including regional accrediting organizations.
Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Higher Education Graduates
The 9% job growth in higher education administration positions projected by the BLS between 2014 and 2024 means that 15,200 new jobs will be created for advanced professionals in this field. Typical entry-level positions start at the master's degree level and advancement to top positions often requires a doctorate. Moreover, a national dataset compiled by BLS indicates that those professionals with an earned doctorate degree receive the highest median weekly earnings at $1,623—second only to those who hold professional degrees such as law—and have the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2%.
|Education Level||Unemployment Rate||Median Weekly Earnings|
|High School Diploma||7.5%||$727|
|Less than High School Diploma||11.0%||$472|
DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION SALARY
In May 2016, the median annual salary for higher education administrators in colleges, universities, and professional schools ranged between $90,760 and $93,270. The top 10% of administrators earned over $179,250, while the lowest 10% earned $51,690. The median wage for administrators working in junior colleges was approximately $84,000. The table below uses data from PayScale to outline the average salaries for five occupations that earners of a doctorate in education pursue.
|Position||Average Annual Salary|
|Student Affairs Director||$56,171|
DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION CAREERS
People who earn a doctorate in higher education typically pursue a variety of career paths. Individuals with an Ed.D. become school academic deans, registrars, provosts, district superintendents, community college presidents, and more. In contrast, those with a Ph.D. take positions as qualitative researchers in the private or public sector. However, Ph.D.'s may also enter higher education administration, and Ed.D. earners are eligible to become tenured professors or higher education researchers.
Provosts are known as Chief Academic Officers. They assist in the development of academic policies -- including the appointment of new and tenured faculty -- while also managing large and complex academic budgets.
Median Annual Salary - $150,000
Projected Growth Rate - 0.7%
- Academic Dean
Academic Deans direct the day-to-day and long-term strategic activities of individual colleges or schools within the larger university. A large university typically employs many academic deans to run schools in business, law, dentistry, and many more.
Median Annual Salary - $89,657
Projected Growth Rate - 0.7%
- Student Affairs
Student affairs is a broad category that is divided into three sub categories: student activities, residential life and housing, and multicultural affairs. Student activities directors plan events and serve as advisors to on campus student organizations. Residential life and housing administrators ensure the maintenance of housing facilities and design social and educational programs for residence hall residents. Those who work in multicultural affairs create events and programs to educate and celebrate diversity.
Median Annual Salary - $56,171
Projected Growth Rate - 0.7%
- Admissions Administrators/Counselors
Admissions administrators evaluate how many students to admit each year. They encourage applications through face-to-face meetings, design of promotional materials, and policy design, review applications to make admissions decisions, and analyze admissions data to report to the university and other organizations.
Median Annual Salary - $66,313
Projected Growth Rate - 0.7%
By preparing schedules and course offerings for the academic calendar, registrars begin the new terms months ahead of students. As the term approaches, registrars assist with course registration, and dropping or changing classes. As the term progresses ends, they help students ensure their requirements are being met while preparing new course schedules.
Median Annual Salary - $52,672
Projected Growth Rate - 0.7%
Higher education professionals may join a wealth of professional organizations and associations. Although just three are noted below, there is a wide variety of associations available, many of which are designed for employees at specific institutions (i.e. community colleges) or in specific positions (i.e. registrars). Organizations and associations offer opportunities for networking and professional development that can help recent grads and senior administrators find new positions or continue to develop their skills.
Financing Your Online Doctorate in Higher Education Program
The most common way to pay for an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in higher education is through financial aid, which consists of federal student loans, grants, and state and university-specific need- and merit-based scholarships. To qualify for any form of financial aid, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the university's priority deadline. Deadlines are set by each individual institution, so check with the financial office of the college or university that you're applying to.
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Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
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