Students who earn an online doctorate in higher education gain specialized academic knowledge that prepares them for careers focused on academic research, teaching, and administrative functions. Whether graduates want to teach or assume other leadership roles, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above-average growth rates for higher education careers between 2019 and 2029.

Students can expand their career opportunities and boost their earning potential by earning a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. These specialized programs, rooted in academic research, prepare students for roles like school district superintendent or college professor.

Read on to learn more about online doctoral programs in higher education.

2020 Accredited Online Doctorate in Higher Education Programs

School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Andrews University

Berrien Springs, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

Located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews delivers distance learning programs through the Moodle platform, including online Ed.D. and Ph.D. options in higher education administration. These 60-61-credit programs primarily serve experienced education professionals, allowing participants to continue working while earning their degree in five years.

Students who pursue the Ed.D. track take classes like higher education finance and administration of academic services, preparing for executive positions. The Ph.D. curriculum covers college student development theory and pertinent issues in educational leadership, allowing graduates to pursue careers as researchers and professors. Both tracks require a dissertation.

To earn an online doctorate in higher education, applicants need a master's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA. They also need to submit a statement of purpose, a resume, and three recommendations.

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

CSU serves about 12,500 students through its Global Campus. Distance learners can enroll in the university's online Ph.D. in higher education leadership program, which uses a scholar-practitioner learning model. Graduates are prepared for senior administrative positions in enrollment management, student services, and institutional research.

Students spend five years earning this doctorate in higher education and must attend some on-campus meetings at CSU's Fort Collins campus. Coursework covers topics like education policy analysis, higher education law, and student development in a collegiate context. Distance learners round out their degree with a dissertation and a comprehensive examination.

Applicants need a regionally accredited master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also have two or more years of relevant work experience. CSU does not require standardized test scores for admission.

Concordia University Chicago

River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

CUC provides more than 100 career-focused undergraduate and graduate programs. Offerings include online Ed.D and Ph.D. in leadership pathways with a specialization in higher education. Requiring 61-67 credits, these programs help students develop the advanced research skills needed for evidence-based decision-making.

Core courses in the program include developing an organization's human capital and promoting sustainable change. As part of the specialization, students delve into higher education law in the context of governance and leadership. To earn their online doctoral degree in higher education, learners need to complete dissertation research and pass a comprehensive exam.

CUC requires applicants to have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The university also requires at least two years of administrative/teaching experience. Prospective students must submit GRE/MAT scores, two recommendation letters, a scholarly writing sample, and a statement of purpose.

The George Washington University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

As a private research institution, GW serves over 26,000 students annually. The university offers a doctorate in higher education administration that primarily serves working professionals who want to advance into executive management positions. This program offers a hybrid delivery method that requires students to attend some weekend classes at GW's campus in Foggy Bottom.

The program's 53-credit curriculum includes core courses like comparative and international higher education, college and university curriculum, and theories for research on college students. Students also learn to implement qualitative research methods and analyze group comparison models. The program requires a dissertation and a comprehensive examination.

Admission requirements include GRE/MAT scores, a resume, a statement of purpose, and two recommendation letters. Students can only enroll in the fall.

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Valley, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

GMercyU serves about 2,800 students in over 40 academic programs. The school powers distance education with the Blackboard platform, offering online degrees like an executive Ed.D. in education leadership. In this accelerated program, learners take one course at a time in five-week or seven-week sessions, ultimately graduating in less than three years.

Requiring 54 credits, the program's curriculum covers topics like statistical analysis, methods, and research; U.S. education policies and practices; and finance and fiscal administration. Students learn to manage university enrollment and implement data-driven program evaluations. They also gain hands-on experience through three residencies.

Applicants need a relevant master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need at least three years of full-time professional experience. GMercyU grants GRE/MAT waivers to applicants with a 3.5 GPA or higher.

Indiana State University

Terre Haute, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Located in Terre Haute, ISU offers more than 70 online programs through Blackboard, including an online Ph.D. in educational administration with a specialization in leadership in higher education. This program uses a cohort model — students complete the same course sequence in lockstep with a group of their peers. Learners graduate in two years.

The program's 72-credit curriculum follows a scholar-practitioner philosophy and includes courses like foundations of modern education, resource management in higher education, and organizational governance. This doctorate in higher education helps learners gain practical skills through intensive on-campus workshops and an integrated internship experience.

ISU requires applicants to have a regionally accredited master's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA. Prospective students need to send in three recommendation letters, GRE scores, and an essay detailing their contributions to the education leadership field.

Maryville University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 41%

Maryville enrolls about 6,000 distance learners in over 30 fully online programs. Graduate students can complete the school's Ed.D. in higher education leadership within 32 months. In addition to a practitioner-focused curriculum, this program offers personalized guidance by pairing each student with a faculty mentor.

Required courses in the program include reflective leadership practice and inquiry, understanding data and analysis, and the competitive context of higher education. Students also delve into design thinking, which prepares them to spearhead strategic change and innovation. Learners expand their professional network by attending an in-person or virtual residency.

To gain acceptance into this online doctorate in higher education program, applicants need a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and three years of relevant work experience. Maryville may award up to nine transfer credits based on post-master's coursework, certification, and professional training.

Missouri Baptist University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

MBU delivers several career-focused, online degrees through the Canvas platform, including an Ed.D. in higher education leadership that students can earn in 30 months. The program prepares graduates for senior administrative careers with postsecondary schools, community-based organizations, and research and policy centers.

The program's 42-45-credit curriculum includes required courses in curriculum development and advanced research methods. Students also delve into leadership and strategic planning, learning how to foster a collaborative culture and make moral decisions. Participants personalize their education with three elective classes and gain hands-on experience by completing an on-campus residency.

Applicants must have an education specialist degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Admission materials include a resume, three academic references, and a graduate-level research writing sample.

Notre Dame of Maryland University

Baltimore, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

Offering one of the state's largest teacher preparation programs, NDMU helps professionals in the education field effectively respond to diverse student needs and shifting government policies. Graduate learners can obtain a fully online Ph.D. in higher education leadership for changing populations.

The program's 51-credit curriculum includes courses like linguistic and cultural diversity; assessment, evaluation, and accreditation; and quantitative and qualitative research methods. Students round out the program with a dissertation and a comprehensive examination. NDMU provides students with ample flexibility by offering multiple entry dates and no residency requirement.

Applicants submit a one-page personal statement and two recommendation letters. NDMU provides several financial aid opportunities, including awards specifically for students enrolled in the School of Education.

Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU serves over 20,000 students. The university offers several flexible degrees, including an online doctor of education in higher education leadership. Throughout this program's 55-credit curriculum, students gain the advanced skills needed to succeed as corporate staff developers, university administrators, and policy analysts.

Required courses in the program cover topics like higher education student affairs and quantitative data analysis. Students also learn to oversee the planning, budgeting, and financing of institutional resources. NSU's online doctorate in higher education requires students to complete a summer institute residency.

Admission requirements include a regionally accredited master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants also need to submit adequate GRE/MAT results and two professional recommendation letters. NSU's graduate and professional students can access scholarships, grants, and loans.

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Higher Education Program?

An online doctorate in higher education program provides working professionals with the flexibility needed to manage personal and professional responsibilities while expanding their career options and boosting earning potential.

An online doctorate in higher education program provides working professionals with the flexibility needed to manage personal and professional responsibilities while expanding their career options and boosting earning potential.

These programs typically require 54-72 credits, and students usually earn their online doctorate in higher education in 3-5 years. Students often have the option to pursue a Ph.D. or an Ed.D.

Doctoral students often have the opportunity to shape their coursework and research to match their academic interests and career ambitions. Many programs also offer concentrations like higher education leadership; higher education administration; and culture, community, and education.

As a capstone experience, many programs require students to research, write, and defend an original dissertation. Some programs also require learners to complete fieldwork, which provides students with valuable, relevant, and practical experience.

Admission Requirements for Online Doctorate in Higher Education Programs

Admission requirements for an online doctorate in higher education vary from program to program. Nevertheless, most schools ask applicants to submit official transcripts, standardized test scores, personal statements, and resumes. Most programs also require applicants to meet minimum GPA requirements — often a 3.0 or higher.

Individuals may also be asked to submit to an interview during the admissions process.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Higher Education Program?

The coursework students complete while pursuing an online doctorate in higher education varies from program to program, and it also depends on each student's specialization. Examples of specializations include leadership and policy, community and education, and human development.

Some programs are based more on theory and research, while others focus on the practical demands of school administration. Read on to learn more about common higher education courses.

Higher Education Administration

Exploring the administrative and organizational makeup of higher education institutions, this class delves into the inner workings of these institutional settings. Learners develop an understanding of administrative responsibilities and analyze contemporary administrative issues.

Statistical Methods

This course provides an introduction to the statistical methods critical to objective academic research in higher education. Students grapple with the theoretical ideas and practical tools they need to conduct statistical research and analysis. Covered topics often include testing methods, probability, and randomness.

Foundations of Educational Research

Covering the academic research methods used at the doctoral level, this course examines the theoretical and practical elements that inform effective and ethical research. Students survey the evolution of educational research, covering modern research methods.

Analyzing Education Literature

Analyzing and criticizing academic literature is an integral part of any doctoral program. This text-heavy course explores best practices for effectively critiquing education-based academic research. Students analyze research, writing, and arguments, allowing them to improve their writing skills while reading scholarly literature.

Economics of Higher Education

By exploring the complex budgets of educational institutions, learners gain an understanding of budget management and develop practical knowledge and financial leadership skills. This course allows students to direct research toward their specific career interests.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Higher Education?

While there are exceptions to the rule, students who earn a Ph.D. in higher education typically go on to teach at colleges and universities, while also continuing to conduct academic research. Alternatively, graduates with an Ed.D. are prepared for administration careers in primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.

Graduates of either track are prepared to help shape education policy, conduct research, and build new curricula.

High School Principal

Overseeing the day-to-day workings of a high school, these administrators manage school activities, faculty, and staff. Principals are also involved in the development of curriculum standards and observe and evaluate teachers. These professionals also analyze and report on standardized test data and manage school budgets.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators oversee collegiate areas such as academics, student services, and faculty research. Common administrative areas include student affairs and admissions, while other administrators work in the registrar's office or as academic deans.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators develop, implement, and oversee school curricula and teaching standards. They may also conduct teacher training, analyze student test data, and train teachers in new academic content and programs. Sometimes known as curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators often specialize in specific grade levels or particular subjects.

School Superintendent

Hired by school district boards, these professionals act as the head administrator for a school system. Superintendents work closely with the school board to develop and maintain annual budgets, and they are also responsible for hiring principals. These administrators should be effective communicators who can maintain a running dialogue with administrators, teachers, and parents to plan and implement goals for the district.

Postsecondary Teacher

Many graduates with a Ph.D. in higher education work at colleges and universities. These professors construct curricula, plan lessons and assignments, and teach courses. College instructors also work closely with students in advisory roles and assess their progress. Many of these professionals publish their own original research.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Higher Education Programs

Is a doctorate in higher education worth it?

A Ph.D. can be worth it if prospective students want to become college professors. Additionally, an Ed.D. opens up career opportunities for students who aspire to careers as school principals or superintendents.

What can I do with a doctorate in higher education?

Graduates with a doctorate in higher education often work as college professors, education policy advisors, or school administrators. Students with a Ph.D. generally engage in teaching and academic research, while Ed.D. graduates develop practical skills that prepare them for administrative and management positions.

Is higher education in demand?

As long as people value the importance of a higher education, skilled professionals with advanced degrees in this field should continue to be in demand. The BLS projects 9% job growth for postsecondary teachers between 2019 and 2029. Over that same period, the BLS projects 4% job growth for school principals.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in higher education?

According to the BLS, principals earned a median annual salary of $96,400 in 2019. During the same year, postsecondary administrators made a median annual wage of $95,410. A doctorate can help individuals stand out on the job market.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a doctorate in higher education?

The BLS reported that elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median annual salary of $96,400 in 2019. Professionals with an Ed.D. can pursue principal positions. Additionally, Ph.D. graduates can pursue careers as tenured professors, who also tend to earn high salaries.