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Best Online Master’s Degrees in Higher Education

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Higher Education

If you love higher education and are interested in expanding your career options, this page is for you. Read on for a comprehensive look at the best schools offering online master’s degrees in higher education and see what you need to know before you apply, during the program, and after you graduate.

There’s nothing like a college campus—the constant flow of innovative ideas, the opportunity to impact young minds, and the commitment to lifelong learning. If spending your career in higher ed sounds like a perfect fit, then an online master’s in higher education might be your next step. Whether you’re currently working in higher ed and want to expand your job options or you’re looking for a career change, your priority is to find a program that puts students first.

Throughout this page, we spotlight standout schools with programs designed specifically for the online learner. In addition to digging into the ins and outs of online master’s in higher education programs, we highlight how much schools cost, how you can pay for your online master’s in higher education, and what careers will be open to you after graduation.

Keep reading to learn more about the flexible and affordable learning opportunities and to see what an online master’s in higher education can do for you.

Top Online Master’s Degrees in Higher Education for 2024

We have ranked the top schools below. Our Rankings Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES.) Click the About the Ranking link below for more information about our methodology.


    Base Methodology for OnlineColleges.me’s 2024 Online College Rankings

    1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

    To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

    • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
    1. Assign Weightings

    After creating the list of eligible schools, OnlineColleges.me data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

    Online Program Availability

    • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. Because exact numbers change often and can be difficult to verify, we use a range-based scoring system: 0-5 online programs = 1 star; 6-10 = 2 stars; 11-15 = 3 stars; 16-20 = 4 stars; 21+ = 5 stars. In our design, laptop icons = stars.
    • For degree-specific pages, ex: Psychology degrees, we list the current number of online programs available at that school for that degree type, as self-reported by the schools.


    • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
    • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

    Support Services

    • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
    • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

    About Our Data

    OnlineColleges.me’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: January of 2024

  • Baltimore, MD
    Private not-for-profit $$

    Notre Dame University of Maryland offers a fully online Master of Arts (MA) in higher education leadership for changing populations with two optional areas of concentration in enrollment management and philanthropy. Whichever concentration you choose, you’ll not only be taking core courses in higher education leadership with a focus on cultural diversity, demographic shifts, and multicultural sensitivity in higher education, but you will also complete original research. No standardized test scores are required for admission, and financial aid is available to students who qualify.

    Program Highlights:

    M.A. in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations

    • Credits: 42
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: $590/credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Baldwin City, KS
    Private not-for-profit $$

    The Master of Science (MS) in higher education leadership at Baker University is a fully online program that can be started at your convenience with year-round start dates. In this program, you will be studying accelerated, flexible courses designed to be accessible to working students. You will also complete supervised practice and a capstone project. Students in this program should expect to acquire expertise in diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and ethics at the postsecondary level. Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher, and transfer students are encouraged to apply.

    Program Highlights:

    MS in Higher Education Leadership

    • Credits: 36
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: $366/credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • River Forest, IL
    Private not-for-profit $

    Concordia University Chicago is a private Christian university offering a Master of Arts (MA) in leadership with a specialization in higher education that can be earned entirely online. In this program, you will study both the social and ethical aspects of higher education and leadership and the law and policy surrounding higher education and how it applies to leadership roles. You will be expected to complete a final capstone project before graduating. There is no application fee or GRE requirement to apply, but prospective students should have a GPA of 2.75 or higher.

    Program Highlights:

    Master of Arts in Leadership: Higher Education Specialization

    • Credits: 33
    • Length: 2 Years
    • Cost: $478/credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Siloam Springs, AR
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Beverly, MA
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Winona Lake, IN
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Scranton, PA
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Jersey City, NJ
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Longmeadow, MA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Lebanon, IL
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Alamosa, CO
    Public $
  • Louisville, KY
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Tiffin, OH
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Lynchburg, VA
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Henniker, NH
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Chicago, IL
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Saint Louis, MO
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Miami Gardens, FL
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Livonia, MI
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Killeen, TX
    Public $
  • Clinton, MS
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Sioux Falls, SD
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Athens, OH
    Public $
  • Caldwell, NJ
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Hattiesburg, MS
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Livingston, AL
    Public $
  • Pittsburgh, PA
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Durham, NC
    Public $
  • Charleston, SC
    Public $$
  • Dallas, TX
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Tuscaloosa, AL
    Public $$
  • Louisville, KY
    Public $$
  • Morgantown, WV
    Public $$
  • Hattiesburg, MS
    Public $
  • Ellensburg, WA
    Public $$
  • University, MS
    Public $
  • Lubbock, TX
    Public $
  • Waterbury, CT
    Private for-profit $
  • Boone, NC
    Public $
  • Ames, IA
    Public $$
  • Fort Collins, CO
    Public $$
  • New Castle, DE
    Private not-for-profit $
  • Houston, TX
    Public $
  • Miami, FL
    Public $
  • Rochester Hills, MI
    Public $$$
  • Stony Brook, NY
    Public $$
  • West Lafayette, IN
    Public $
  • Denton, TX
    Public $
  • East Lansing, MI
    Public $$$

Program Spotlights: Higher Education Master’s Degrees Online

From private institutions such as Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University to expansive public schools such as the University of Louisville, master’s in higher education online programs offer diverse opportunities for professionals seeking to advance their careers in administrative roles at colleges and universities. These programs share common objectives and outcomes, ensuring that the next generation of higher education leaders has the skills to lead effectively.

After enrolling, get ready to explore multiple dimensions of higher education, from policy analysis and educational leadership to student affairs and diversity and inclusion. Many standout programs also prioritize experiential learning, ensuring students gain hands-on experiences through internships and other opportunities.

We spotlight three standout programs below. Keep reading to see what the schools offer and what you’ll learn along the way.

University of Louisville

Established in 1798, the University of Louisville is a public research institution that serves over 20,000 students annually. Among this historic institution’s roster of quality online degrees is its Online Master of Arts in in Higher Education Administration. This 30-credit program offers a flexible and affordable choice for working professionals seeking to expand their career options in higher education administration.

Throughout this program, which typically takes about two years to complete, students tackle courses such as legal issues in postsecondary education, educational resource management in postsecondary education, and college students in the United States. Additionally, students choose between specializations in higher education administration or sports administration. Before graduation, students complete a degree-culminating professional project.

  • Admissions requirements: bachelor’s degree, 2.5 GPA, two letters of recommendation, personal statement, resume
  • Length of program: 30 credits
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Caldwell University

Caldwell University is a New Jersey-based private Catholic institution that dates back to 1939. This small private school allows students to receive personalized instruction and offers a standout Online Master’s in Higher Education. Caldwell’s online higher education master’s program is designed with the working professional in mind, offering a flexible delivery that’s ideal for those juggling the responsibilities of work and home.

Throughout this 36-credit online higher education master’s, students tackle required courses such as resource management in higher education, college student development in the 21st century, current issues in higher education, and diversity and multicultural issues in higher education. Before finishing their degree, students complete a capstone internship that offers an immersive experience in an approved setting.

  • Admissions requirements: bachelor’s degree, 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, personal statement, personal interview
  • Length of program: 36 credits
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

University of West Alabama

Founded in 1835, the University of West Alabama (UWA) is a public institution with more than 5,000 students. UWA’s online Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education supplies students with a flexible, affordable, and quick pathway toward a graduate degree; some full-time online learners graduate in just one year. If you’re seeking a higher education role from admissions to financial aid, this program might be for you.

Throughout this 33-credit master’s program, students complete core classes such as techniques of educational research, educational statistics, advanced educational psychology, and life-span development and learning. Additionally, students complete concentration classes, including counseling multicultural populations, philosophy of student affairs, and introduction to student affairs. Students complete a practicum in student affairs before securing their degree.

  • Admissions requirements: bachelor’s degree, completed online application
  • Length of program: 33 credits
  • Duration: 1-2 years
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

What to Expect in Your Online Master’s Degree Program in Higher Education

While program specifics inevitably vary among online higher education master’s tracks, they typically cover a core group of vital topics, including educational leadership, policy analysis, student affairs, and higher education administration. As you work through your online master’s in higher education program, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge to effect positive change within colleges and universities.

Online master’s in higher education programs usually require students to complete 30 to 45 credits over about two years. You’ll encounter coursework focusing on research along with theoretical and practical training. Before graduation, many programs require a thesis or degree-culminating capstone project. Additionally, schools such as Bay Path University offer concentrations in diverse areas such as administrative leadership, enrollment management, and institutional advancement.

Online learning in a master’s in higher education program often utilizes a flexible, asynchronous approach, allowing students to access course materials, lectures, and assignments at their own pace. The best online programs boast intuitive learning management platforms. Most likely you’ll also encounter video conferencing, discussion forums, and group projects. Most programs are designed to meet the needs of working professionals, ensuring they have the flexibility to keep up with the responsibilities of school, work, and home.

Below we spotlight some common online master’s in higher education courses.

Common Online Master’s in Higher Education Courses

Educational Leadership and Administration

This online course covers the foundational elements of effective leadership in higher education. Topics covered include organizational management, leadership ethics, and strategic planning for colleges and universities. Students are challenged to develop the skills and knowledge to guide educational institutions upon completion of their online master’s in higher education.

Student Development and Learning Theories

This course in your master’s in higher education online dives deep into the psychological and sociological theories of how students learn, aiding educators and administrators in grappling with the needs of a diverse student body. Topics include identity development, career counseling, and support services for student success.

Higher Education Law and Policy

Focusing on the policy and legal frameworks governing higher education, this course explores topics and issues such as Title IX, campus safety, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. As part of your online higher education master’s degree program, this class equips learners with foundational knowledge about compliance and ethical issues in the field.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education

By highlighting the value of diversity and inclusion in higher education settings, this class examines strategies for creating inclusive learning environments, addressing disparities, and promoting equitable access to higher education.

Contemporary Issues in Higher Education

This course in your online master’s in higher education delves into the dynamic challenges facing today’s higher education landscape. Additionally, it explores topics such as access and affordability, technological advancements, globalization, changing demographics, and the evolving roles of universities in society. Students gain insights into the complex issues shaping the future of higher education.

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree in Higher Education Cost?

Earning your master’s in higher education online can mean a significant and meaningful step in advancing your career and expanding your earning potential. Still, a master’s degree comes with an investment of both time and money that requires careful planning. As you determine which school is right for you, it’s crucial to have a well-considered financial strategy before enrolling.

Thankfully, you have access to a solid list of financial aid options that are available to help ease the burden of tuition costs. These include federal financial aid and student loans, along with private and school-specific scholarships, fellowships, and work-study programs. Additionally, some employers also provide tuition assistance for employees pursuing further education.

To seek out these financial aid opportunities, start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (commonly known as the FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for student aid. You’ll also want to research school-specific scholarships and inquire about options unique to the school. Additionally, explore the countless scholarships from private organizations that can help cover the cost of your education.

By taking an active role in seeking financial aid and carefully planning and managing your budget, you can make your online master’s in higher education more financially feasible, allowing you to focus on academic and career goals. 

Check out the graphic below to see how much various online master’s in higher education degrees cost.

How Much Your Online Master’s in Higher Education Could Cost

SchoolNo. of CreditsCost per CreditTotal Tuition
University of Louisville30$791$23,730
Caldwell University36$695$25,020
University of West Alabama33$429$14,157
Bay Path University30$830$24,900
Duquesne University30$1,095$32,850

Job Outlook: What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Higher Education

Earning an online master’s degree in higher education opens numerous rewarding career options within academia, administration, and beyond. Master’s grads develop the knowledge and skills to tackle roles such as academic advisors, college administrators, admissions officers, and higher education consultants. The skills acquired, including leadership, strategic planning, and a thorough understanding of education policy, are often in high demand. Schools such as Madonna University point to graduates working in diverse careers, including academic support, corporate compliance, financial services, and health and wellness.

While prospective students have myriad reasons for pursuing their online master’s in higher education, increased earning potential and expanded career opportunities often top the list. And while salaries vary for master’s grads, many go on to roles that offer competitive pay and potential for growth. An online higher education master’s unlocks senior positions and opportunities for leadership.

Continue reading as we spotlight several possible job options for graduates with an online master’s in higher education.

Administrative Services and Facilities Manager

Administrative services and facilities managers oversee the day-to-day operations of educational institutions. A master’s in higher education equips graduates with the leadership and organizational skills that are foundational to this role. These professionals manage budgets, staff, and resources, ensuring facilities run smoothly while fostering a safe and positive learning environment.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators working in higher education utilize their skills to develop and implement education programs and curricula. Those completing an online master’s in higher education are equipped with knowledge of effective teaching methods, curriculum development, and the assessment of educational outcomes. These workers ensure that educational content meets the needs of both students and institutions.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators play an essential role in managing colleges and universities. Students graduating with an online master’s in higher education utilize skills in institutional leadership, policy analysis, and strategic planning, working in administrative roles everywhere from admissions to student services.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

FAQs About Online Master’s Programs in Higher Education

If you’re still considering an online master’s in higher education, you likely have a few remaining questions. You‘re not alone! Below you’ll find answers to some of our readers’ most pressing questions. From online learning to student services, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about this growing field.

  • Are online master’s degree programs in higher education fully online?

    Most online master’s in higher education programs are entirely online, allowing students to attend class and complete coursework remotely. The best online programs boast user-friendly virtual platforms, utilizing everything from videoconferencing to recorded lectures. Still, some online programs may require periodic in-person attendance. Be sure to check with prospective schools about any in-person requirements.

  • What does the admissions process look like for this degree?

    Admissions requirements vary between schools, but there are some standard elements you can anticipate. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree, students most likely will need to include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, professional resume, writing samples, and personal statements with their online application. Some schools, such as Caldwell University, also require a personal interview.

    While some programs require GRE scores, it’s becoming common for schools to eschew standardized test scores, in favor of prioritizing a holistic evaluation of applications. Check to see if the master’s in higher education online programs you’re considering require test scores or not.

  • How long does it take to complete a master’s degree in higher education online?

    The time it takes to earn your master’s in higher education depends on multiple factors, including program requirements and your status as a part-time or full-time student. On average, full-time students complete these programs in 1 1/2 to 2 years. Of course, full-time students graduate faster than part-time learners, but students completing accelerated programs—or those with ample transfer credits— can graduate even more quickly. Schools such as Duquesne University offer accelerated course terms, allowing you to graduate in fewer than two years.

  • What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their master’s in higher education?

    Online learners typically have access to a range of student services, including academic advising, digital library resources, career counseling, and virtual tutoring. Additionally, many standout programs offer online students access to services such as mental health counseling. Colleges and universities with quality online programs strive to mimic the campus-based experience, offering support to ensure that online students receive the assistance they need.

  • Can I work while pursuing an online master’s in higher education degree?

    Yes, online master’s in higher education programs are designed with flexibility in mind, allowing students to work while completing academic requirements. The flexibility of online programs often gives degree-seekers the chance to integrate their studies into their work life while also allowing them to keep up with personal and professional responsibilities.

Other Master’s Degree Options in Education

If you’re interested in a master’s degree in education but are unsure what specialization to pursue, check out these other degree pages to learn about your options:

Master’s Degrees in Education – Curriculum and Instruction

Master’s Degrees in Education – Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Master’s Degrees in Education – Educational Leadership

Master’s Degrees in Education – Library Sciences

Master’s Degrees in Education – Music Education

Master’s Degrees in Education – Special Education (SpEd)

Master’s Degrees in Education – Teaching