Master’s in Higher Education | Salary & Programs 2021

Master’s in Higher Education

For many teachers looking to take the next step in their careers, the quickest path to growth is an advanced degree. Earning your master’s in higher education can sharpen your skills, strengthen your resume, and earn you an immediate pay raise.

A graduate degree can command thousands of dollars more per year for an educator.1 Of course, earning an advanced degree takes time and money, but the pros often outweigh the cons. Many people earn the master’s online while working and/or parenting.

If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge, developing your skills, and advancing your career as an educator by earning your master’s in higher education, read on to learn everything you need to know.

What is a Master’s in Higher Education Degree?

A master’s in higher education is an advanced degree focused on education for students past the high school level. Participants in a master’s program for higher education are given the opportunity to specialize in a particular interest within the field.

Full-time students can generally finish the program within one to two years, while part-time students could take as long as four years to earn their degree.

Outstanding Schools with Master’s in Higher Education Degrees in the U.S.

Choosing which school to earn your master’s in higher education degree from should depend on three factors:

  • Location
  • Cost
  • Quality of the program

For many people, the first two factors often take priority, but remember that an esteemed program doesn’t just have the potential to help you earn more money or more job opportunities — it can also provide you with a far higher quality of education.

Below are 10 schools with outstanding master’s in higher education programs. Earning a graduate degree at one of these schools will serve as a crown jewel on any educator’s resume.

Note: This ranking/list is based on our own standards. The perfect school for any individual will be based on their own personal needs.

Capella University

Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Capella University is a large, private university that offers eight different master’s in higher education programs. It’s notable for its wide range of specializations and its relative affordability. Online courses are available.

Walden University

Also located in Minneapolis, Walden University is an even larger private university offering six different master’s in higher education programs. It’s notable for both its affordability and high acceptance rate. Online courses are offered.

Kent State University at Kent

Kent State University, located in Kent, Ohio, is a large public university that offers four different master’s in higher education programs. It is moderately affordable, but somewhat selective about its admissions. Online courses are provided.

George Washington University

The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. is a large, private university that offers five master’s in higher education programs. GWU is a highly reputable school with very high tuition fees. It is also highly selective, with an average accepted GPA of 3.86 in their master’s programs. Online courses are available.

University of Pennsylvania

UPenn is one of the oldest educational institutions in the country and was chartered in 1755. This highly reputable private university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers one master’s in higher education program: Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.).

UPenn charges very high tuition fees and is extremely selective about their admissions, with an average accepted GPA of 3. Online courses are provided.

Michigan State University

This large public university in East Lansing, Michigan offers four different master’s in higher education programs. MSU has relatively high tuition fees and is selective about its admissions, with the average accepted GPA being a 3.75. Online courses are offered.

University of North Texas

Located in Denton, Texas, the University of North Texas is a large public university that offers three different master’s in higher education programs. Tuition fees at UNT are moderate, and the average accepted GPA is 3.46. Students may take courses online.

Boston College

Boston College is a highly reputable private college located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. They offer three different master’s in higher education programs. Tuition fees are very high at Boston College, and the acceptance rate is very low, with an average accepted GPA of 3.96. Online courses are available.

Drexel University

Drexel University is a large private university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They offer four different master’s in higher education programs. Tuition fees are very high at Drexel University, and the acceptance rate is low, with an average accepted GPA of 3.73. Students may take online courses.

University of Toledo

The University of Toledo, located in Toledo, Ohio is a large, public university that offers three different master’s in higher education programs. It offers moderately affordable tuition fees and a moderate acceptance rate, with an average accepted GPA of 3.45. Online courses are available.

What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Higher Education?

A master’s in higher education can open many doors for an educator seeking to advance their career. Read on to learn about the ways that a master’s in higher education can affect your:

  • Salary
  • Job opportunities
  • Potential career paths

Master’s in Higher Education Salaries

With a master’s degree in higher education, a teacher can command a higher base salary and more easily advance into higher paying administrative positions.

Postsecondary teacher salaries vary widely by location, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median pay is $79,540 per year. Median pay for postsecondary education administrators is $95,410 per year.

In their first year of teaching, holding a master’s degree can help an educator to earn nearly $3,000 more than a comparable candidate with a bachelor’s degree. As they move up the pay scale, that disparity can expand to nearly $7,500 more per year.

Master’s in Higher Education Job Projections

According to BLS, postsecondary education administrator positions are expected to grow 4% by 2029. This is on par with the projection for total occupations, but higher than the projected growth of other management occupations (3%).2

Master’s in Higher Education Career Paths

Here are some of the common career paths that someone who has earned their master’s in higher education could potentially pursue, along with median salaries, job projections, and a short description of the position.   

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Postsecondary Teacher$79,540        9%Instructs postsecondary students in a variety of subjects
Academic Dean$98,151        4%Oversees budget, approves hiring, sets rules and policies, develops programs, and more
Academic Advisor$61,000          4%Helps students plan their path toward earning their degree, offering resources for further support
Registrar$85,988        4%Helps students schedule and register for classes, ensuring that they meet graduation requirements. Prepares transcripts and maintains academic records
Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earning a Master’s Degree in Higher Education

There are a few different types of master’s in higher education programs. There are also a wide variety of courses that you may need to take in order to earn your degree. Read on to learn more.

Types of Higher Education Master’s Degrees

The following are just a few of the different master’s degrees that you can earn in the field of higher education:

Again, these are only a few of the programs you might consider while seeking a master’s in higher education. Speaking with an academic advisor at a school that interests you can help you get a better idea of the particular programs that a given school offers.

Courses in Higher Education Programs

The courses required for a master’s in higher education will vary widely depending on the institution and their particular programs, but students can generally anticipate taking courses with a similar focus. Listed below are some common courses you can expect to encounter.

Leadership in Education – This course is centered around the foundational aspects of leadership within the context of education, analyzing the concept of leadership critically, and allowing students to develop their own personal leadership style.

Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice in Education – This course educates students on the relationship between organizations, leadership roles, and the concepts of diversity, equity, and social justice, as well as helping students identify their own biases.

Foundations of Higher Education and Governance – Students gain a better understanding of how administrative structures work by learning how these structures developed in American colleges and universities.

Evidence-Based Evaluation – Students learn the foundational aspects of evaluation, while also examining the concept of conducting evaluations through a cultural, social, ethical, and political lens.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Higher Education Master’s Degree?

The length of time required to complete your graduate degree is going to vary depending on your previous education and experience.

I Have a Bachelor’s Degree in Education – Holding a bachelor’s degree in education or an equivalent field means that it will likely take one to two years to earn your master’s in higher education.

I Have a Four-Year Degree in Another Field – Holding a bachelor’s degree in a different field means that it will require at least two to three years to earn your master’s in higher education.

I Have a B.Ed. But Will Work While Taking Courses – Earning your master’s part-time will take you three to four years to complete.

I Want to Earn My Degree Online – Earning your online master’s in higher education will take one to three years while studying full-time.

I Want to Take an Accelerated Program – With an accelerated program, you can earn your master’s in one year of studying full-time.   

Skills Learned in a Higher Education Master’s Program

Earning your master’s will strengthen your resume and open up job opportunities, but it also provides you with a wider, sharper skill set that can help you to secure future positions or prepare you for a higher degree should you choose to pursue one.

A master’s degree in higher education will help you learn to:

  • Communicate
  • Empathize
  • Strategize
  • Work with a team
  • Build relationships
  • Network

These skills are invaluable not only in the field of higher education, but in life, as well. With these skills, you will be better suited to any kind of leadership role.

Choosing the Best Higher Education Master’s Degree

There are a few factors to help determine which master’s program is the best for you. Let’s take a closer look.

Higher Education Master’s Degree Specializations

SpecializationDescriptionCareers
LeadershipLearn how to lead, organize, build relationships, and make important decisionsAcademic Dean, Leadership Program Administration, Provost
Student AffairsLearn how to work with students and help them to plan out their futuresRegistrar, Academic Advisor
TeachingSharpen your skills as a teacher and expand your knowledge of educationPostsecondary Teacher

Online vs. On-Campus Higher Education Master’s Degrees

For those looking to earn their master’s in higher education online, there are schools that offer programs either partially or entirely over the Internet. Online schooling has developed into a viable solution for students unable to live near campus or those looking to get their education around a full-time work schedule.

While some students still choose to earn their degree on campus because of the consistent schedule and social benefits, online courses offer incredible flexibility while requiring no commute.  

Should I Complete Courses Online?

Online courses can be an amazing solution for anyone who doesn’t have the ability to attend school full-time. It may mean missing out on the socialization that comes with actually being on campus, but that’s the trade-off for the convenience and flexibility of online schooling.

It’s important to note that online courses are not “worse” than on-campus courses. In fact, many schools use the same exact faculty for both iterations of a course.

How Long Do Online Courses Take to Complete?

Online courses are typically faster than on-campus courses. While a regular on-campus semester runs about 15 weeks, an online course can be completed in about 8 or 9 weeks. This means you can potentially earn your degree faster online.

Hybrid classes, on the other hand, will typically take the usual 15 weeks to complete, as they are composed partially of on-site classes. This is important to keep in mind when you’re determining which courses you want to take.

Another important factor to consider is whether your courses are synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes meet virtually at a scheduled time each week, while asynchronous classes utilize pre-recorded lectures and participation through discussion boards.

Accreditation

It’s critical that you earn your degree from a regionally accredited school. Accreditation not only ensures your education meets a certain standard, but it also gives your diploma a certain weight and value that a non-accredited school cannot.

Your future employers will want to know that the education you received is going to help you effectively work in your field. Accreditation provides them with a standard.

Applying to Higher Education Master’s Degree Programs

Applying for a master’s degree program is much like applying for undergrad programs. The only difference is that you’ll likely have fewer schools on your target list since your program is more specified.

You’ll want to do the following to prepare your application:

  1. Acquire your transcripts well ahead of time
  2. Make a list of schools you’d like to attend
  3. Make a list of the admissions requirements for each school
  4. Write a personal essay
  5. Seek out letters of recommendation

Once you’ve done all of this, you will be ready to send out your applications. Using the Common App can help to streamline the process.

Admissions Requirements for Higher Education Master’s Programs

You’ll also need to have these prerequisites met and admission materials prepared:

  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in the education field
  • Minimum GPA (varies from school to school)
  • Application and application fee
  • Transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Letters of recommendation

Each school will have their own particular set of requirements in order to gain admission to their program.

Paying for a Higher Education Master’s Degree

The costs associated with earning your master’s in higher education vary widely depending on the school you choose. State universities offer residents discounted prices while private universities can charge more than three times the in-state tuition costs.

Your financial situation is also a major factor for which program you choose. Even if you don’t have the means to attend an expensive school, there are ways to seek help with payment, including scholarships, grants, and financial aid.  

How Much Does a Master’s Degree in Higher Education Cost?

Tuition for your master’s degree can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000, depending on the school and types of courses you take. However, tuition is not the only cost to consider. You must also take into account how you’ll pay for housing and other living costs if you’re attending class on campus.

For online students, it’s important to note that there are sometimes extra tuition fees to factor in, like the costs of the educational technologies and facilities.

Scholarships for Higher Education Graduate Students

Here are just three of the many scholarships you can apply for if you’re looking for something to help you with the cost of your graduate degree.

●  BHD Endowed Scholarship for Teachers – Up to $2,500 available to graduate students with a non-education undergrad that are pursuing a graduate degree in education

●  The Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship – $1,000 to licensed teachers who are seeking an advanced degree in education

●  Thurgood Marshall College Fund – Up to $6,000 for students that are attending an HBCU and are seeking an advanced degree in education or any other service-oriented career

Higher Education Career Resources

Here are some additional resources to take advantage of on your journey to earning your master’s in higher education:

HigherEdJobs – This is a terrific resource for job and career information in the field of higher education. Use it to get connected with your future employer.

Higher Education Recruitment Consortium – This is a non-profit group of colleges, universities, and other organizations that seek to diversify faculty, staff, and executives in institutions of higher education. Use this resource for career advice or job seeking.

National Career Development Association – This is a great resource for higher education career counselors and specialists. Use this tool for career information, assessment instruments, and more.

HigherEd360 – This is a recruitment tool for higher education careers. Use it for job seeking and career information.

Master’s in Higher Education FAQ

What Jobs Can I Get with a Master’s in Higher Education?

Job opportunities opened to you as you earn your master’s in higher education will revolve primarily around higher education administration. This includes positions like registrar, academic advisor, academic dean, student services dean, provost, and more.

How Difficult Is It to Get a Master’s Degree in Higher Education?

Graduate degrees are more focused, and they build off of previous knowledge. So, the curriculum is almost always more difficult than an undergraduate degree. However, if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s in education, you probably have a general idea of whether you’ll be able to cut it in a graduate program.

Is It Worth It to Get a Master’s in Higher Education?

This question may be a matter of opinion, but a master’s degree in higher education can help to strengthen your resume, develop your leadership abilities, and increase your base salary, all of which can go a long way toward making your efforts worthwhile.

Sources:

  1. https://www.bestcollegesonline.org/faq/how-much-do-teachers-with-a-masters-degree-earn/
  2. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm