Earning your PhD in Higher Education may be the next step in both your educational and professional path.
Higher education PhD programs can provide knowledge about what it takes to provide postsecondary education today. This type of program is beneficial for those who are interested in participating in higher education in an administrative, leadership, research, or teaching role.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Much like with online masters in higher education programs, there are many accredited schools that offer online doctoral programs in higher education, allowing you the flexibility to advance your credentials while maintaining your current work or life responsibilities.
Online PhD in Higher Education Programs
Many students consider PhD programs in higher education because they are interested in teaching, research, or administration roles at colleges and universities.
Earning a PhD in Higher Education can be beneficial for those who wish to pursue a variety of careers related to the collegiate experience. For instance, some graduates aim to work as a dean or provost of an institution. Others pursue roles in higher education administration and operations or public relations and fundraising.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
While each school offers its own unique curriculum, PhD students will be asked to analyze, research, and even experiment with various theories and ideas.
Though presented in the context of higher education, many of these learned skills are important for all professionals. These can include:
- Strategic development and implementation of new procedures, policies, and ideas
- Management skills to coach and lead a variety of teams
- Ability to objectively research and review operational effectiveness
- Understanding various educational theories and philosophies
- Effective oral and written communication skills
As a result, it is not uncommon for those who receive degrees in education online to also work in consulting positions, particularly in areas such as training and development or human resources. They may also work for a university as a historian or an archivist.
An online PhD in Higher Education is often a step toward a career in research and academia, but the skills learned can also apply to higher-level professionals in many different career paths.
Higher Education Careers & Salaries
Those who attend higher education PhD programs may choose to pursue a wide variety of careers upon completion of their degree.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries of various career paths associated with doctoral studies in higher education.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Public Relations Managers||$129,430|
|Training and Development Managers||$120,000|
|Administrative Services Managers||$103,330|
|K-12 Education Administrators||$101,320|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators||$99,940|
|General and Operations Managers||$98,100|
|Postsecondary Education Teachers||$66,930|
Earning a doctoral degree in higher education can help you qualify for a variety of professional opportunities. Many PhD graduates work in the higher education field as leaders, professors, researchers, or instructional coordinators.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Some individuals pursue the administrative side of higher education. Others choose to work in public relations or fundraising to support schools and non-profit educational resources.
Higher Education PhD Curriculum & Courses
Each school will have its own unique curriculum for higher education PhD students, which may impact your decision to attend a particular school. Some common courses of study include:
- A History of Higher Education: In this course, you’ll learn about the historical and philosophical development of higher educational opportunities.
- Student Development and Higher Education: This course examines how students learn, and it studies learning capacity with age and methods for greater educational enrichment.
- Developing and Implementing Staff and Student Policies: You’ll learn how to create policies within the context of higher learning institutions and how to ensure fair, ethical enforcement.
- Higher Education Organizational Staffing: This course reviews the staffing and development of staff within a higher education setting.
- Laws and Ethics in Higher Education: This course provides insight into state and federal legal and ethical rulings for various educational institutions.
- Critical Issues in Higher Education: This course examines some of the critiques and controversies within higher education settings.
- Global Views Toward Higher Education: In this course, you’ll study how higher education is viewed, administered, and conducted around the world.
- Technology and Education: Students in this course will learn how technology is changing the way higher education is coordinated and conducted, including the resulting challenges and rewards.
- Finance and Accounting in Educational Settings: This course helps you understand funding, supply chain, payroll, and accounting challenges within an educational institution.
- Diversity and Higher Education: In this course, you’ll examine how cultural, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, and religious identity can impact education.
It could be helpful to review different schools’ doctoral degree requirements and curricula as you decide which programs to apply to.
How to Choose an Online Doctorate in Higher Education Program
There are a variety of options when it comes to schools that offer online doctoral programs in higher education.
Here are a few common areas to consider when exploring and comparing these programs:
- Expenses. In addition to the cost of tuition, you may want to consider any additional fees associated with earning your online doctorate, including materials and online classroom access.
- Format. Some programs offer 100% online learning, while others offer courses or learning opportunities that require students to go into the field or connect in a physical classroom. The format you prefer may depend on your learning style.
- Schedule. You may want to consider the expected length of time required to complete a doctoral program as well as whether you prefer full-time or part-time enrollment. Some programs may offer accelerated tracks.
- Courses. Students often select schools that provide an emphasis on the areas they would like to incorporate into their professional roles.
- Support. You can also investigate available student support opportunities, including faculty availability and credentials, internships or mentorships, and resources for graduates.
It could also be beneficial to consider the accreditation status and reputation of a school. You could even connect with alumni to discuss their overall experience. Ultimately, it is often a combination of these considerations that leads to selecting the best program for you.
Schools typically have unique application processes for their online doctoral programs in higher education. When looking at a school, it’s beneficial to review its specific admissions requirements prior to applying.
Most schools generally require items such as the following:
- GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
- Personal statement
- All undergraduate and graduate transcripts
- Academic writing samples
- Letters of recommendation
You may also be asked to complete an interview with members of staff from the higher education program.
Higher Education Doctoral Programs Accreditation
When evaluating higher education PhD programs, you may wish to pay particular attention to schools that have received regional accreditation.
Regionally accredited schools have been evaluated for academic excellence. As a result, there are certain benefits for students who attend an accredited institution. Some financial assistance opportunities require students to attend accredited schools in order to apply for aid. In addition, some professional organizations and licensing boards require applicants to have an education from an accredited institution.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Regional accrediting organizations are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and you can visit CHEA’s website to verify a school’s accreditation status.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
For many students, the first step toward gaining financial assistance for a doctoral degree in higher education is to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Completing the FAFSA helps determine what, if any, needs-based federal financial aid you are eligible to receive. State aid programs may request your FAFSA results as well. You can also research scholarships and grants that are offered by your school, private companies, professional organizations, or independent donors.
Many schools also have fellowship or assistantship opportunities available to select doctoral candidates. Some employers also offer tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs to employees who are continuing their education in a related field.
What Can You Do with a PhD in Higher Education Degree?
Students typically pursue a doctorate in higher education in order to work in administrative, operational, or faculty roles at higher educational institutions, such as colleges and universities.
Some graduates may end up working as a professor, dean, or provost at a postsecondary school. Others work in more administrative roles, such as reviewing curriculum and implementing changes. They may even participate on a board of directors or work in public relations for a specific school within a university.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that professional roles within higher education are increasing at a higher-than-average rate.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Higher Education Online?
The amount of time it takes to earn a doctorate in higher education online depends on the type of program you select as well as your enrollment status. If you are enrolled part-time, for example, it will likely take longer to complete the credit hours required.
Many students who enroll full-time earn their PhD in 3 to 5 years, including with a dissertation. If the doctoral program you select does not require a dissertation, it could be possible to complete your doctorate within 3 years.
What’s the Difference Between a PhD vs. EdD in Higher Education?
Here are a few of the differences between a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Education.
|PhD in Higher Education||EdD in Higher Education|
Since an EdD is often more practice oriented, these doctorate programs might allow you to complete a capstone project in lieu of a dissertation.
Is a PhD in Higher Education Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Higher Education is worth it for many students. This terminal degree can help you develop valuable leadership, communication, research, and analytical skills that are applicable not only in the field of higher education but in many leadership roles as well.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Many PhD students aim to work in higher education administration, leadership, research, or teaching roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary education administrators and postsecondary education teachers are projected to see 7% and 8% job growth, respectively, over the next ten years.
Universities Offering Online PhD in Higher Education Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Azusa Pacific University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Policy and Practice. Classes meet primarily online, though periodic residencies on campus are required. The program is designed to help prepare for pursuing advanced roles within the higher education field. The 62 credit curriculum aims to teach concepts like leadership, student retention, social justice, and curriculum.
APU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Capella University offers a Doctor of Education in Leadership for Higher Education program online. Potential courses include The Future of Teaching and Learning, Higher Education and the Law, and Advanced Funding and Managing Education Enterprises. The program is designed to teach skills in research, leadership, and problem-solving in order to work in the field of higher education.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Colorado State University offers a hybrid program for a PhD in Higher Education Leadership. The program is designed to help prepare for pursuing leadership roles in areas like enrollment management, student services, higher education administration, academic support, and student life.
The completion of 60 credit hours is required. Classes typically cover topics like education policy, educational equity, research methods, education law, and finance.
Colorado State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Indiana State University offers an online program for a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with a concentration in Higher Education Leadership. Common courses include Social Foundations of Leadership, Philosophy of Education, and Resource Management in Higher Education. The program is designed for those interested in working in collegiate and university or secondary educational settings.
Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration program online. The program aims to teach the skills needed for careers such as department head, board member, instruction coordination manager, and registrar. Classes are typically 8 weeks long each. On average, the 60 required credit hours may be completed in about 3 years when attending full-time.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Notre Dame of Maryland University offers an online program for a PhD in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations. This program aims to prepare to serve as innovative leaders for institutions experiencing organizational change. Upon completion of 42 required credits of courses, a dissertation and 3 examinations must be completed.
Notre Dame of Maryland University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Purdue University offers a Doctor of Education in Higher Education. Classes meet primarily online, though on-campus intensives commonly occur once each semester. The program aims to prepare for pursuing careers as academic officers, deans, financial aid directors, provosts, athletic directors, or department chairs. The program is typically completed in about 4 years.
Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers an online program for a Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Higher Education. The curriculum spans 108 credits. Courses tend to teach topics like higher education history, finance, organizational planning, educational policy and law, and student affairs.
The University of Nebraska – Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Toledo offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education hybrid program. Classes are generally taught using a mix of online, face-to-face, and blended learning formats. The program is designed for those interested in business operations, residence life, advising, admissions, or administration roles. On average, the 60 required credits are completed in 5 to 7 years.
The University of Toledo is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
West Virginia University offers a PhD program in Higher Education. This program utilizes a hybrid online and in-person learning format, with part or full-time attendance options. Specializations include Academic Affairs, Curriculum, Student Development, Administration, and Organizational Policy. The program is designed for those already having completed a master’s degree in a related field.
West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your PhD in Higher Education Online
A PhD in Higher Education can lead to professional, personal, and educational advancement. Getting a PhD in Higher Education is a beneficial and strategic step for many professionals and educators who want to enter or advance in the field of higher education.
Whether you plan on working in a faculty, leadership, or administrative role within a higher learning institution, earning your PhD online can help you grow your professional qualifications.
You can take a look at some of the online higher education doctoral programs offered by accredited universities to determine which ones best align with your interests and career goals.