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 Center for the Study of Higher Education and the 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. Since 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, 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.

How To Apply

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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.