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Higher Education Administration Graduate Programs

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Higher education administration graduate programs can prepare you for a career managing a college or university. Students learn how business, leadership, and organizational behavior issues apply in a higher education institution.

What Types of Higher Education Administration Graduate Programs Can I Complete?

  • Graduate Certificate: The graduate certificate is a one-year program designed to teach students the foundations of higher education administration. Students look at topics like the roles of different administrative managers, change management in education institutions, human resources in education, and e-learning teaching strategies.
  • Master's Degree: The master's degree delves into higher education administration at a deeper level than the graduate certificate. For example, students learn how to develop management strategies and policies for different types of colleges, and how to nurture diversity in higher education faculty and admissions. Most master's programs require students to learn how to analyze business data and complete a research project in higher education administration. Some require students to complete a professional fieldwork experience in a college admissions, student services, human resources, or financial aid office.
  • Doctorate Degree: Rather than preparing individuals for entry-level administrative positions, the PhD is designed to launch graduates into careers in the highest administrative roles, as well as higher education policymaking and teaching positions. Most doctoral programs require students to focus in a particular area of higher education, such as international higher education, organizational culture, policy analysis, student affairs, and finance issues in higher education. Students take advanced courses, complete qualifying examinations, and do an intensive research project in their area of specialization.

What Will I Learn in a Higher Education Administration Graduate Program?

  • Administration Skills: Courses in administration and leadership discuss professional communication, policy implementation, employee management, assessing student services programs, and carrying out policy changes.
  • Fostering Student Success: For a college to be successful, administrators have to help recruit and retain an adequate number of students. This course covers marketing a higher education institution, recruiting particular student populations, economic issues in enrollment, and enrollment management.
  • Higher Education Law: Higher education institutions must follow a variety of laws to safeguard students and ensure that government financial aid funds are used responsibly. This class discusses privacy issues, legal strategies, patent law, and other legal issues that can also affect colleges.
  • Technology in Higher Education: This class discusses the variety of ways technology is applied in higher education, such as distance learning, library services, and record keeping. Students also learn how to implement employee technology training.

Can I Earn a Higher Education Graduate Degree Online?

Yes, many colleges offer online higher education graduate programs. Online certificates and master's degrees are the most common options. Many of these online degrees are designed for individuals currently employed in a higher education office, such as an admissions office, financial aid office, or student services center. The online programs allows these professionals to learn more skills and advance in the workplace at the same time. Other online programs do not require students to already have employment in higher education, but they often require students to find an internship placement during the program.

What Job Opportunities Can I Expect in Higher Education Administration?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19 percent increase in the job market for higher education administrators, from 2010 to 2020. As more students enroll in community colleges, universities, and private training institutes, these institutions will be hiring more administrators. Higher enrollment will increase the job market for several types of administrators, from residential advisors and registrars to enrollment officers. In addition to the number of new positions, many current higher education administrators will be retiring during the next few years, which will also improve job opportunities.[1]

The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education, and the American Association of University Administrators have more information about the higher education management profession.


  1. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published July 18, 2012.
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