Best Online Higher Education Master's Degree Programs 2024

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Top Online Master's Degree Programs in Higher Education 2024

Career.Guide has utilized the comprehensive data available from the College Scorecard API to rank the top schools for the best online master's degree programs in higher education for 2024. Our methodology includes a weighted analysis of key performance metrics such as graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratios, average financial aid awards, and post-graduation earnings potential. We prioritize institutions demonstrating academic excellence and robust student support services. This data-driven approach ensures our rankings reflect the true value these programs offer to students in both educational and career-oriented outcomes.

School Name
Cost Per Credit
1Northeastern University$738New England Commission of Higher Education
2Michigan State University$841Higher Learning Commission
3Penn State World Campus$1,007Middle States Commission on Higher Education
4University of Nebraska LincolnResident: $357 | Non-Resident: $676Higher Learning Commission
5Drexel University$1,047Middle States Commission on Higher Education
6Texas A&M University CommerceResident: $758 | Non-Resident: $1,166Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
7Georgia Southern UniversityResident: $277 | Non-Resident: $1,105Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
8University of Missouri St. Louis$548Higher Learning Commission
9Colorado State University$685Higher Learning Commission
10University of HoustonResident: $489 | Non-Resident: $997Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
11Texas Tech University$313Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
12West Virginia University$655Higher Learning Commission
13Stony Brook UniversityResident: $471 | Non-Resident: $963Middle States Commission on Higher Education
14University of North Texas$227Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
15Liberty University$415Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
16University of Louisville$775Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
17Grand Valley State University$756Higher Learning Commission
18Mississippi College$713Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
19University of WyomingResident: $337 | Non-Resident: $537Higher Learning Commission
20Duquesne University$1,095Middle States Commission on Higher Education
21University of MississippiResident: $484 | Non-Resident: $1,388Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
22Appalachian State University$304Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
23Sam Houston State UniversityResident: $725 | Non-Resident: $1,133Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
24Abilene Christian University$650Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
25Central Washington UniversityResident: $693 | Non-Resident: $1,624Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
26University of New Orleans$962Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
27Angelo State University$232Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
28University of Houston VictoriaResident: $367 | Non-Resident: $775Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
29University of West Alabama$429Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
30Florida International University$586Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
31Missouri Baptist University$573Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences
32Concordia University Chicago$460Higher Learning Commission
33University of South DakotaResident: $340 | Non-Resident: $654National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education
34John Brown University$460North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission
35Hofstra University$1,570Middle States Commission on Higher Education
36Louisiana State University$459Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
37Madonna University$900Higher Learning Commission
38Bay Path University$830New England Commission of Higher Education
39McKendree University$580North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission
40University of Southern Maine$430New England Commission of Higher Education
41Valdosta State UniversityResident: $254 | Non-Resident: $915Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
42Columbus State UniversityResident: $210 | Non-Resident: $817Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
43Grace College & Seminary$446Higher Learning Commission
44North Park University$1,240North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission
45Caldwell University$675Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Why Choose an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education?

Opting for an online Master's degree in Higher Education can be a strategic move for professionals seeking to advance their careers while balancing other commitments. The decision to enroll in an online program comes with a multitude of advantages, each tailored to meet the evolving needs of adult learners and education professionals.

Flexibility and Convenience

One of the primary benefits of pursuing a Master's degree online is the unparalleled flexibility it offers. Unlike traditional on-campus programs, online courses allow you to:

  • Study from anywhere, eliminating the need for a daily commute or relocation.
  • Access course materials and lectures at any time, catering to various time zones and work schedules.
  • Balance professional responsibilities with academic pursuits, enabling continuous career growth.
  • Adjust study hours around personal commitments, such as family obligations or community involvement.

Advanced Career Opportunities

A Master's degree in Higher Education opens doors to advanced roles within academia and beyond. Graduates can anticipate:

  • Increased eligibility for leadership positions in colleges, universities, and related educational institutions.
  • Enhanced qualifications for roles in policy development, student affairs, academic advising, and more.
  • Greater potential for higher salaries and benefits compared to those holding only a bachelor's degree.
  • Opportunities to influence the future of education through innovative practices and research.

Personalized Learning Environments

Online learning platforms are designed to cater to diverse learning styles, providing:

  • Interactive discussion forums for peer-to-peer engagement and networking.
  • Digital resources like e-books, scholarly articles, and specialized software tools.
  • Personalized feedback from instructors with expertise in the field.
  • Customizable learning paths that align with individual career goals and interests.


Financial considerations are crucial when pursuing higher education. Online programs often present cost-saving advantages such as:

  • Lower tuition rates due to reduced overhead costs for institutions.
  • No expenses related to campus facilities or mandatory on-site services.
  • Savings on transportation, parking fees, and on-campus dining.
  • The ability to maintain full-time employment while studying, thereby reducing student debt accumulation.

Technology Integration

Embracing an online format means engaging with cutting-edge educational technology that enhances learning experiences. Students benefit from:

  • The use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) that streamline course navigation and assignment submission.
  • Exposure to digital collaboration tools that are increasingly used in modern educational settings.
  • The development of online communication skills that are valuable in virtually every professional context.
  • Innovative assessment methods tailored to online formats, including multimedia presentations and virtual portfolios.

By choosing an online Master's degree in Higher Education, students position themselves at the forefront of educational innovation while enjoying the freedom to tailor their learning journey to their personal and professional lives. This flexibility, combined with the potential for career advancement and cost savings, makes online higher education degrees an increasingly attractive option for many individuals.

Types of Online Master's Degree in Higher Education Programs

When exploring online Master's degree options in higher education, prospective students will find a variety of programs designed to fit diverse career goals and academic interests. Each program offers a unique approach to the study of higher education, with curriculum and focus areas that cater to different professional tracks within the field. Below are some common types of online Master's degree programs in higher education:
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Higher Education: This degree is often tailored for those looking to engage directly with student affairs or educational leadership. Programs may cover topics such as student development theories, assessment methods, and diversity in higher education. It is a popular choice for individuals aiming to work in student services, admissions, or residential life.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.) in Higher Education Administration: For students interested in the administrative side of postsecondary institutions, an M.A. in Higher Education Administration focuses on governance, policy, organizational dynamics, and management. Graduates are prepared for roles in areas like academic advising, financial aid, registrar's office, or institutional research.
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Higher Education: Those looking for a more research-oriented program may opt for an M.S. in Higher Education. This type of degree typically emphasizes data analysis, research methodologies, and evidence-based decision-making within the context of higher education institutions. It suits individuals aiming for careers in policy analysis or institutional research.
  • Executive Master's Programs: Executive-style master's programs are designed for working professionals who already have significant experience in higher education. These programs often include leadership training and strategic planning components, preparing graduates for senior-level positions such as deans, provosts, or presidents.
  • Specialized Master's Degrees: Some institutions offer specialized degrees that focus on particular aspects of higher education such as enrollment management, student retention, online learning and instructional design, or international education. These programs are tailored for those who have a clear career path and wish to develop expertise in a specific niche area.
Each type of online Master's degree program in higher education will have its own set of core courses and electives, allowing students to tailor their education to their career objectives. It's important for prospective students to carefully consider their professional goals and choose a program that aligns with their aspirations within the field of higher education.

Online Master's Degree in Higher Education Admission Requirements and Application Process

Pursuing an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education can be a strategic move for those seeking to enhance their careers in the realm of academia or educational administration. To ensure a smooth application process, it’s essential for prospective students to understand the standard admission requirements and the steps involved.

Educational Prerequisites

Most institutions require applicants to have:
  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, typically with a minimum GPA (often around 3.0 on a 4.0 scale).
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended.

Professional Experience

Some programs may also expect:
  • Prior professional experience in education or a related field, although the amount of experience required can vary by program.

Application Components

The application dossier often includes:
  • A completed online application form, detailing personal information, educational background, and professional experience.
  • A statement of purpose or personal essay that outlines the applicant's career objectives, interest in higher education, and reasons for pursuing the degree.
  • Letters of recommendation, usually two or three, from individuals who can attest to the applicant's academic and professional capabilities.
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae that highlights relevant work experience, education, and any accomplishments or certifications.
  • Some programs may require GRE or GMAT scores, though this requirement is increasingly being waived by many institutions.

Additional Requirements

Depending on the institution, additional components might include:
  • An interview with program faculty, either through video conferencing or by phone.
  • A writing sample or portfolio that showcases previous work relevant to higher education.
  • Evidence of teaching certification or administrative credentials if relevant to the program's focus.

International Students

International applicants should be prepared to provide:
  • Proof of English language proficiency through TOEFL or IELTS scores if they are non-native English speakers.
  • Evaluation of international transcripts through services such as WES (World Education Services) to ensure they meet U.S. equivalency standards.

Deadlines and Timelines

Adherence to deadlines is crucial. Prospective students must be aware of:
  • The specific application deadlines for their desired start term, as these can vary widely between institutions and programs.
  • The possibility of rolling admissions in some programs, allowing applicants to submit their materials at any time during the year with multiple start dates available.

Navigating the Application Process

To navigate the application process effectively:
  • Create a checklist of all required documents and pre-requisites before starting the application.
  • Contact the admissions office with any questions regarding eligibility criteria or required materials.
  • Plan ahead for potential interviews or additional requests from the admissions committee.
Understanding these requirements and preparing accordingly will help streamline the application process for those aiming to secure a place in an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education program.

Online Master's Degree in Higher Education Program Curriculum and Specializations

When considering an online Master's Degree in Higher Education, one of the key factors that prospective students examine is the program’s curriculum. This curriculum is meticulously designed to cover a breadth of topics that are critical to understanding the complexities of higher education systems, policy, and administration. Additionally, specializations allow students to tailor their educational experience to align with their career goals and interests.

Core Curriculum Components

The core curriculum in an online Master's program in Higher Education typically encompasses foundational subjects that provide a comprehensive understanding of the higher education landscape. These subjects may include:
  • Educational Policy: Delving into the intricacies of policy formation, implementation, and analysis at both state and federal levels.
  • Administration and Leadership: Focusing on the skills needed to effectively manage and lead educational institutions, including strategic planning and organizational dynamics.
  • Curriculum Development: Examining strategies for designing, assessing, and improving curricular offerings to meet diverse educational needs.
  • Finance and Budgeting: Understanding the financial aspects of higher education, including budgeting processes, resource allocation, and fiscal management.
  • Student Affairs: Exploring the role of student services in higher education and strategies for promoting student success and engagement.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Addressing issues related to equity, access, and representation within higher education settings.
  • Legal Aspects: Studying the legal framework governing higher education institutions, including compliance with federal regulations and risk management.
  • Research Methods: Gaining expertise in research methodologies appropriate for studying higher education issues and trends.


To further enhance their expertise, students can often choose from a variety of specializations within their online Master's program. These specializations provide focused study in specific areas of interest. Common specializations may include:
  • Enrollment Management: Concentrating on recruitment strategies, admissions processes, financial aid, and retention programs.
  • Institutional Research: Focusing on data analysis, assessment techniques, and evaluation methods used to inform decision-making in higher education.
  • International Education: Understanding global education systems, international student services, and cross-cultural communication within academic settings.
  • Higher Education Policy: Analyzing policy development processes and their impact on institutions, students, and communities.
  • Online Learning and Teaching: Exploring best practices for designing, delivering, and assessing online educational programs.
  • Community College Leadership: Preparing for roles specific to the unique mission and governance structure of community colleges.

Culminating Experiences

Most online Master's programs in Higher Education also require students to engage in culminating experiences that synthesize their learning. These may take various forms such as:
  • Capstone Projects: Allowing students to apply their knowledge to a real-world issue or project relevant to higher education.
  • Internships or Practicums: Offering practical experiences at educational institutions or related organizations under professional supervision.
  • Thesis Research: Providing an opportunity for in-depth study of a particular topic within higher education that culminates in a formal written thesis.
These components of the program ensure that graduates are well-equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to navigate and contribute to the field of higher education effectively. The flexibility of online learning allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional responsibilities while pursuing specialization areas that align with their career aspirations.

Online Master's Degree in Higher Education Accreditation and Quality of Online Programs

When considering an online Master's degree in Higher Education, it's essential to evaluate the accreditation and quality of the programs available. Accreditation serves as a key indicator of a program's academic integrity and its recognition within the educational and professional communities.

Understanding Accreditation for Online Programs

Accreditation is the process by which independent agencies evaluate the quality of educational programs against established standards. For online Master's programs in Higher Education, there are several types of accreditation to consider:
  • Regional Accreditation: This is the most recognized form of accreditation in the United States. It is granted by accrediting bodies that are specific to certain geographic areas. Schools with regional accreditation are generally seen as offering higher levels of educational quality.
  • National Accreditation: Often less prestigious than regional accreditation, national accreditation agencies oversee schools throughout the country, typically focusing on vocational, career, or technical programs.
  • Programmatic Accreditation: Some higher education programs may also have specialized accreditation from organizations that focus on specific fields, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).
Prospective students should verify that their chosen institution is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Evaluating the Quality of Online Programs

The quality of an online Master's in Higher Education program can be assessed through various indicators beyond accreditation:
  • Faculty Credentials: Investigate the qualifications and experience of faculty members. Highly qualified professors with a mixture of academic and real-world experience enrich the learning experience.
  • Curriculum Rigor: A challenging curriculum that aligns with current industry standards ensures that graduates are prepared for the demands of higher education leadership roles.
  • Student Support Services: Look for programs offering comprehensive support services such as academic advising, career services, and technical assistance for online learners.
  • Technology and Resources: The platform and tools provided for online learning should be user-friendly and facilitate interaction among students and faculty. Access to digital libraries, research databases, and other resources is also vital.
  • Student Outcomes: Graduation rates, employment outcomes, and student satisfaction surveys can provide insight into the program's effectiveness.
  • Professional Networking Opportunities: Programs that facilitate networking through internships, alumni associations, and professional partnerships can enhance career prospects.
Prospective students should also consider their personal learning preferences and whether an online format will suit their lifestyle and study habits. Engaging with admissions counselors, current students, or alumni can provide a clearer picture of what to expect from an online Master's program in Higher Education. By thoroughly researching accreditation and program quality, students can make informed decisions about where to invest their time and resources in pursuit of advancing their careers in higher education.

Online Master's Degree in Higher Education Tuition & Financial Aid

When considering an online Master's Degree in Higher Education, understanding the financial commitment involved is essential. Tuition for these programs can vary significantly based on several factors, including the institution's prestige, geographic location, and whether it is a public or private school. Tuition costs for an online Master's in Higher Education typically range from $400 to over $1,000 per credit hour. Full programs generally require between 30 to 36 credit hours, which means the total tuition could fall anywhere from $12,000 to $36,000 or more. Keep in mind that some schools charge a flat rate for the entire program instead of a per-credit fee. In addition to tuition, prospective students should also account for supplementary costs such as:
  • Technology Fees: These fees cover the use of the online learning platform and various digital resources.
  • Books and Materials: While many resources may be available online, some courses might require textbooks or other materials.
  • Graduation Fees: Some institutions charge a fee to process graduation applications and confer degrees.
To offset the cost of tuition and other expenses, students pursuing an online Master's Degree in Higher Education have several financial aid options available:
  • Federal Financial Aid: Students may be eligible for federal loans and grants by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Scholarships: Many institutions offer scholarships based on merit, diversity, or field of study. External organizations also provide scholarships that students can apply for.
  • Employer Tuition Assistance: Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs as part of their benefits package, particularly if the degree is relevant to the employee’s job.
  • Payment Plans: Schools often have payment plans that allow students to pay tuition in installments rather than a lump sum.
  • Military Benefits: Active-duty military members, veterans, and their families may be eligible for education benefits through the GI Bill or other military aid programs.
Prospective students should also investigate if their chosen institution offers in-state tuition rates for online programs. Some universities extend these lower rates to all online students, regardless of their state of residence. It's important for students to thoroughly research and understand all available financial aid options. Contacting financial aid offices at prospective schools can provide personalized information and help in identifying the best strategies to finance an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education.

Best Careers for Master's Degree in Higher Education in 2023 by Salary

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API.

Career Opportunities with an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education

Earning an online Master's degree in Higher Education opens up a myriad of career paths for individuals passionate about shaping the future of education. Graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle various roles within colleges, universities, and beyond. Here's a closer look at the potential job opportunities available to those with this advanced degree:
  • Academic Affairs Administrator: In this role, individuals oversee academic policies, curriculum planning, and faculty affairs. They work closely with deans and department heads to ensure that educational standards are met and maintained.
  • Student Affairs Professional: These professionals focus on student services such as advising, career services, counseling, and residence life. Their goal is to enhance the student experience outside the classroom and support student success.
  • Enrollment Management Specialist: Specialists in enrollment management develop strategies to attract and retain students. This includes overseeing admissions processes, financial aid programs, and student recruitment campaigns.
  • Institutional Researcher: Institutional researchers collect and analyze data pertaining to university operations. They provide insights that guide decision-making on campus, from enrollment trends to program effectiveness.
  • Higher Education Consultant: Consultants offer expertise to educational institutions on a range of issues such as policy development, organizational change, and technology integration. They often work with multiple institutions, bringing a broad perspective to complex challenges.
  • Community College Administrator: Administrators at community colleges manage various aspects of campus operations, including academic programs, budgeting, and community outreach initiatives.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Officer: These officers are responsible for promoting diversity within the institution. They develop policies and programs that foster an inclusive environment for all students, faculty, and staff.
  • Director of Alumni Relations: As a director of alumni relations, one focuses on building and maintaining relationships with graduates. This involves organizing events, managing communications, and developing fundraising strategies.
  • Policy Analyst: Policy analysts working in higher education examine legislation and regulations affecting the sector. They provide recommendations to educational leaders on how to navigate these policies effectively.
  • Education Technology Specialist: Specialists in this field help integrate technology into educational settings. They may work on developing online learning platforms or training faculty in digital teaching methods.
With a Master's degree in Higher Education obtained online, graduates are not limited to traditional campus roles. The flexibility of their training allows them to adapt to evolving educational landscapes and meet the needs of modern learners. Additionally, many of these positions offer opportunities for leadership development and career advancement within the field of higher education.

FAQ's About Obtaining an Online Master's Degree in Higher Education

When considering an online master's degree in higher education, prospective students often have a plethora of questions regarding the process, requirements, and outcomes of such programs. Here are some common inquiries answered to aid in making an informed decision.

What are the admission requirements for an online master's in higher education?

  • Bachelor's Degree: Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.
  • GPA: Many programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA, often around a 3.0.
  • Test Scores: Some programs may require GRE scores, although this requirement is increasingly being waived by many institutions.
  • Experience: Relevant work or academic experience in education can be beneficial and sometimes required.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Typically, two or three letters of recommendation are needed, often from academic or professional references.
  • Statement of Purpose: A personal statement outlining your educational goals and reasons for pursuing the degree is usually necessary.
  • Resume/CV: A current resume or CV detailing your educational background and work experience.

Can I work while completing this program?

Yes, one of the primary benefits of an online master's degree in higher education is the flexibility it offers. Programs are typically designed to accommodate working professionals. Many courses are asynchronous, allowing students to complete coursework on their own schedule within set deadlines.

How long does it take to complete an online master's degree in higher education?

The time to completion can vary based on several factors:
  • Program Structure: Some programs are designed to be completed in as little as one year, while others may take two to three years.
  • Part-time vs. Full-time: Enrollment status will impact the duration; part-time students will take longer to complete the program than full-time students.
  • Prior Credits: Some programs accept transfer credits which can reduce the number of required courses.

What kind of accreditation should I look for in a program?

Accreditation is a key factor in assessing the quality and credibility of any educational program. Look for programs accredited by recognized agencies such as:
  • The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Regional accreditation is particularly important as it is widely recognized and respected.

What will I learn in an online master's program in higher education?

Coursework generally covers a range of topics including:
  • Educational Leadership: Strategies for leading and managing educational institutions effectively.
  • Educational Policy: Understanding and influencing the policies that shape higher education.
  • Campus Environments: Exploring the diverse aspects of campus life and student demographics.
  • Courses may also cover: Curriculum development, assessment methods, higher education law, finance, and student affairs.

What types of careers can I pursue with this degree?

Graduates with a master's in higher education can pursue various career paths, including but not limited to:
  • Academic Affairs Administrator
  • Student Services Coordinator
  • Admissions Director
  • Financial Aid Advisor
  • Institutional Researcher
  • Higher Education Consultant

Are there opportunities for specialization within this field?

Many programs offer concentrations or tracks that allow students to specialize in areas such as:
  • Student Affairs: Focusing on student life and support services.
  • Educational Policy and Administration: Preparing for roles in educational leadership and policy-making.
  • Educational Technology: Integrating technology into higher education administration and learning experiences.

How will an online program prepare me for advancement in the field of higher education?

Online master's programs in higher education typically combine theoretical knowledge with practical application. The curriculum is designed to enhance your leadership abilities, deepen your understanding of educational policies, and develop your skills in areas like data analysis and decision-making. Moreover, many programs include internship or practicum components that provide real-world experience. These elements collectively prepare graduates for advanced roles within colleges and universities.

What is the cost range for these online programs?

The cost of an online master's degree in higher education can vary significantly based on factors such as the institution, length of the program, and state residency. Generally, you can expect tuition ranges from:
  • $10,000 to $30,000 for public institutions
  • $25,000 to $50,000 for private institutions
It's essential to research each program thoroughly and consider financial aid options that may be available.