Higher Education student

Master of Education in
Higher Education

Program summary

Gain the practical skills you need for a successful career in postsecondary education. This online degree program is part of a higher education curriculum at Penn State that has been training professionals in the industry for more than 50 years.

Application deadline

Apply by June 15 to start August 21

Credits and costs

30 Credits $1,007 per credit

Nationally Recognized

US News and World Report graduate education
Our graduate education programs are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Online Master of Education in Higher Education

The Master of Education in Higher Education is a 30-credit professional degree program designed to prepare students and professionals for the field of postsecondary education. The master's in higher education is offered through Penn State's Department of Education Policy Studies. The higher education program has been a part of Penn State for more than 50 years.  

Our higher education master's program is flexible. Many of our students are working professionals and choose to take one course at a time. Because almost all of our courses are offered in every term (fall, spring, and summer), other students choose to take two courses each term and complete their degree in five terms (a little over a year and a half). This program offers students a broad introduction to careers, policies, administration, history, organization, and evaluation of postsecondary education programs and activities. A higher education master's is useful for entry-level professionals in a variety of administrative areas and those aspiring to become mid-level administrators of college and university offices, as well as practitioners in a variety of administrative functions desiring further professional development and career enhancement.

What Makes Our Online M.Ed. in Higher Education Different? 

The master's in higher education online is offered with three emphasis areas:

  • administration
  • student engagement
  • institutional research 

All full-time faculty in the higher education program, which includes practitioners with significant administrative experience, contribute to the master's in higher education online courses. The program includes course work in the study of higher education institutions (careers, professional skills, history, administration, student clienteles, curricula, advising, institutional research, planning, and enrollment management). You will work closely with your faculty adviser to design a program of study that will help prepare you for a chosen career path.

You must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. No experience in a higher education setting is required for admission to the program.


The Master of Education in Higher Education program of study is composed of:

  1. required courses in the study of higher education — 15 credits
  2. culminating experience — 3 credits
  3. elective courses which provide greater depth of study in an area of interest to the student, including an internship experience — 6 credits
  4. focus courses in an area of professional practice in higher education — 6 credits

Note that students have the option of taking elective courses in an area of professional practice or designing their own program of study from electives offered in higher education or other relevant areas in the College of Education.

If you are a student interested in earning both the certificate in Institutional Research and the M.Ed. in Higher Education from Penn State, you will need a minimum of 36 credits to earn both the 30-credit M.Ed. and the 15-credit certificate.

Required Courses (15 credits)

  • 3

    Foundations in the policy context and student characteristics of postsecondary education; analysis of issues and future trends in the field.

  • 3

    Explores concepts, methodologies and research practices that support campus decision-making: national data sets, planning and budgeting, enrollment management and enrollment forecasting, faculty studies and instructional analysis, institutional effectiveness and accreditation, educational effectiveness and student outcomes assessment.

  • 3

    This course is an overview of graduate study, professional careers, and professionalism in higher education.

  • 3

    This course gives students an overview of administrative leadership within higher education institutions. Students learn about organizational structure, governance, leadership, decision-making, internal and external constituencies, culture, resources, and organizational change. Brief discussions of key organizational theories are included but the course primarily focuses on administrative practice.

  • 3

    Numerous scholars, over many years, have explored a wide array of topics about college students — their preparation for college, their generalized and particularized characteristics, their behaviors in college, their attitudes about social issues, their relative success in achieving learning outcomes, their engagement (or lack thereof) with various components of the collegiate learning experience, their persistence, and the list goes on and on.

Culminating Experience (3 credits)

  • 3

    Creative projects, including nonthesis research, that are supervised on an individual basis and fall outside the scope of formal courses.

Emphasis Area (6 credits)

Administration (6 credits)

  • 3

    Strategic planning and resource management in higher education through institutional research.

  • 3

    This course is an overview of the legal standards arising in higher education, including institutional legal obligations, the rights and responsibilities of faculty, staff, and students, and the legal and regulatory roles of states and the federal government.

Student Engagement (select 6 credits)

  • 3

    Principles involved in teaching at the college level; effective use of teaching aids; criteria used in evaluation.

  • 3

    An overview of the academic advising profession and the role of academic advising in the collegiate setting

  • 3

    Academic program assessment/student outcomes in accountability and accreditation processes.

  • 3

    This course examines the nature and purpose of the student affairs profession, its functions, and how they can be effectively managed, coordinated, and integrated as part of student learning in American institutions. It also explores institutional strategies for organizing, staffing, and funding the large portfolio of programs, services, and facilities designed to facilitate student learning and development at different types of institutions.

Institutional Research (select 6 credits)

  • 3

    Strategic planning and resource management in higher education through institutional research.

  • 3

    Teaches best practices and necessary skills in quantitative and qualitative research design, including sampling and basic measurement issues, research methods, survey research, interviews, focus groups, and selecting appropriate statistical tools.

  • 3

    Academic program assessment/student outcomes in accountability and accreditation processes.

  • 3

    Topics include measuring faculty workload, evaluating faculty research productivity, the uses and misuses of student ratings, assessment for promotion and tenure, and methodologies for conducting salary studies.

  • 3

    Studies three stages of enrollment management: Pre-admission, initial student experience, and student success and completion.

Electives (select 6 credits)

Choose from a list of elective courses in higher education with approval of a faculty adviser to satisfy 1–9 credits of this requirement.

  • 3

    Supervised experience in administrative offices, in research, on instructional teams, and in college teaching. (Recommended for students without work experience in higher education.)

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, should be received by the following deadline to be considered complete.

  • Fall DeadlineApply by June 15 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by October 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by February 15, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.

Admission Requirements 

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. All of your materials including reference letters must be submitted before the application deadline to be considered for admission.  You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References (3) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Statement of Purpose  A written essay discussing your professional goals and how the study of higher education will bring you closer to realization of those goals.

Résumé — Upload your résumé to the online application.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

Applying as a Nondegree Graduate Student

Apply as a "nondegree" graduate student to begin taking courses right away. If you are taking courses as a nondegree graduate student, you must apply to the master's degree to be considered for admission into the Master of Education in Higher Education. In the graduate school application:

  • Select "Nondegree Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Learn more about this program

Download Program Brochure All my programs 

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by June 15 to start August 21. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Higher Education Career

A group of educators collaborating as they review documents at a table

You can take the knowledge gained from this master's degree program and pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals. You'll also have the support of Penn State Career Services.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

The following roles are often held by people with this type of degree:

  • Academic Affairs Director
  • Admissions Director
  • Financial Aid Director
  • Institutional Research Director

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

Education Administrators, Postsecondary

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way

A figure walking on a path that includes a certificate part of the way through their progress

Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate along with their degree in less time than if they earned them separately.

Certificate Program Related to This Degree

The following certificate can be earned while completing this degree program:

Develop the research and analysis skills needed to support institutional planning and policy formation. The curriculum includes topics such as research design, assessment, and evaluation, and the integration of strategic planning with institutional finance.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Institutional Research  

Contact Us

To learn more about the Master of Education in Higher Education, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education, please contact:

Diane Lupp
Administrative Support Assistant
Higher Education Program
The Pennsylvania State University
Phone: 814-863-2690
[email protected]

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
[email protected]


  • Allie Goldstein

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Higher Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Postsecondary Educational Leadership with emphasis in Student Affairs, San Diego State University
    • Degree
      B.A., Communications, State University of New York at Buffalo

    Dr. Allie Goldstein is an assistant professor for the higher education program offered through Penn State World Campus. Her research, which focuses on online education, examines how predominantly residential institutions can create engagement opportunities and affinity-building activities for their online students.

  • Karen Paulson

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Higher Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.S., Metallurgical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • Degree
      M.S., Administration, Higher and Continuing Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • Degree
      B.S., Ceramic Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Dr. Karen Paulson is a professor and coordinator of online programs for the higher education program. She came to Penn State in September 2015 after 19 years of working with state and institutional policymakers at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include assessment, evaluation, accreditation, and the use of data. She has worked at nearly 60 postsecondary institutions and in 45 states.


Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by June 15 to start August 21. How to Apply