Why This Matters

  • THERE WILL BE 22M COLLEGE STUDENTS IN 2026

    College enrollment has been steadily increasing for the past few years, and is expected to grow by another 13% in the next seven years, based on population, income and unemployment projections.

  • COLLEGE ADMIN JOBS PROJECTED TO RISE 10%

    As student enrollment increases, so will the need for more postsecondary education administrators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the addition of 18,200 new administrative jobs.

  • CHOOSE FROM OVER 10 POSSIBLE CAREER PATHS

    Students who earn a master’s in higher education can go on to work in a variety of capacities at colleges, including student affairs, financial aid, admissions, and alumni relations.

Our Research

Students can earn several different types of degrees in higher education, including a Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS). The various degree types have different pedagogical approaches, but all teach the necessary skills and concepts for advancement in higher education administration.

All of the programs on our list are offered by regionally accredited institutions, ensuring they meet high standards of education. Additionally, some programs are accredited through education-specific bodies like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

We reviewed programs that are offered online, on-campus, and in blended or hybrid formats, so students can select the program that best fits their availability. To rank the programs, we evaluated their reputation, course strength, cost, faculty and flexibility. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best master’s in higher education are affordable, highly regarded, and flexible.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 76 hours to write this article
  • 195 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 436 education programs we compared

The Top 45 Master’s in Higher Education Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Master’s degrees in higher education focus on preparing graduates for administrative and leadership roles, not teaching positions. Although some individuals may go on to teach, preparation for a career as a college professor typically involves earning a master’s and doctorate in the specialty you wish to teach. It’s important to be clear about your career goals before selecting the type of degree to pursue.

A key component of higher education graduate programs is experiential learning in an assistantship, internship, or practicum. Often these experiences are available through the school at which you are studying. Selection for an assistantship may be a condition for admission into a program. In exchange for their work at the institution, some schools offer free or reduced tuition, stipends, or free housing. Individuals enrolling in online programs may have to find their own internship or practicum settings. When researching programs, talk to an advisor or faculty member about the program’s exact requirements for experiential learning.

As employees move up through the ranks of college administration, the competition for positions becomes stiffer, as high-level positions like president, provost, and deans are limited at each institution. Years of experience or earning a doctorate can help increase your chances of attaining one of these positions, but the majority of higher education administration jobs exist at the middle-management level.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Masters Higher Education programs:

  • Does this program have the specialization that I want? Since there are many distinct roles to fill in higher education institutions, most programs offer concentrations in areas like student affairs, leadership, assessment, or athletic administration. If you’ve identified an area in which you wish to concentrate, be sure to look for programs that offer that specialization.
  • What assistantship opportunities are available? Because master’s in higher education programs train students to work at universities, they often employ graduate students to give them hands-on experience. At many schools, admission into the program and acquiring an assistantship are contingent on each other. Find out if the school offers assistantships in your particular field, and what kind of benefits, like stipends or tuition assistance, are included.

Be sure to research the program’s admissions requirements and deadlines as well. Many master’s in higher education programs require standardized test scores, so it’s important to be aware of important dates for taking tests and submitting scores. Financing your graduate education is another important consideration. In addition to assistantships, ask about loans, scholarships, and employer tuition benefits.