This completion option accounts for a variety of ways in which students may complete the degree, acknowledging that a person’s particular responsibilities and preferences shape decisions regarding how long it may take to complete the 30-credit degree program or how many courses to take during any particular semester. In this option, a student’s plan of study is individualized and developed in league with an adviser to meet self-determined professional goals based on particular realities. Examples of students for whom this option is ideal include: those who work full-time at Penn State; those from nearby campuses who desire additional education; or, those who have “on their own” have obtained an internship/assistantship on campus.

Students who pursue this option will complete 18 credits of required courses, 6 credits in an “area of emphasis,” and 6 credits of electives.  Students who pursue this option will normally take a majority, if not all, of the courses at University Park. However, they may choose to take some courses online through Penn State’s World Campus and, depending on the area of emphasis that is selected, they may be required to take 1 or 2 courses online.

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Graduates of the M.Ed. in Higher Education Program will:

  1. Demonstrate reading proficiencies to deal effectively with theoretical, empirical, and policy material in higher education.

  2. Demonstrate writing proficiencies to analyze problems of practice, draw upon and apply concepts studied, and synthesize ideas into relevant and useful conclusions.

  3. Demonstrate critical thinking skills that require suspended judgment and the application of relevant theory to varied areas of practice.

  4. Demonstrate responsibility toward the goal of becoming a proactive, reflective life-long learner.

  5. Demonstrate the ability to collaborate with others to facilitate problem-solving and decision making through reflective practice.

  6. Demonstrate an understanding of purpose, audience, and context in communication activities.

  7. Demonstrate appropriate use of communication technologies.

  8. Demonstrate an ability to draw upon key theories, concepts and research findings to assess current issues and challenges facing higher education institutions.

  9. Demonstrate the ability to collect and analyze data to improve practice in particular administrative areas of higher education.

  10. Demonstrate an understanding of professional and ethical practice.

Required Courses (18 credits)

HIED 808              Pro-Seminar in US Higher Education and Student Affairs
HIED 545              Introduction to US Higher Education
HIED 842              Administrative Leadership in Higher Education
HIED 846              College Students and Their Success
HIED 596              Capstone
EITHER HIED 507 (Research and Assessment in Student Affairs) OR HIED 801 (Foundations of Institutional Research)

Areas of Emphasis

The M.Ed. program offers 7 areas of emphasis as follows:

  1. Advising*

  2. Administration+

  3. Development*

  4. Enrollment Management*

  5. Institutional Research*

  6. Student Affairs

  7. Teaching and Learning+

Each area of emphasis involves taking two required courses (3 credits each). Those areas of emphasis above with an asterisk (*) involve taking both required courses online.  Those areas of emphasis above with a plus sign (+) involve taking one of the required courses online.  The student affairs area of emphasis is currently offered at University Park only.

NOTE: A student may opt to have no area of emphasis.


All students must take at least 6 credits of elective courses. In so doing, they may choose among other higher education courses, or choose among courses from other academic programs at Penn State.