Online PhD in Higher Education Administration

As our nation's social, economical and technological landscape continues to change, higher education continues to change along with it. By earning a PhD in Higher Education Administration, you can acquire the necessary skills to survive these changes and strengthen an institution of higher learning in the process. A doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration is usually sought by experienced educators who want to move to a higher level position within a college or university, or perform the research necessary to understand and improve the evolving landscape of higher learning. Most online doctoral programs in Higher Education Administration require that students first obtain a master's degree from an accredited university or college before applying for the program. This shows that the student is able to complete upper-level coursework and is interested in pursuing this discipline further. Doctoral students must be focused, driven, and able to work on detailed projects for extended periods of time. Online PhD programs in Higher Education Administration can take several years to complete. Some students take courses part-time, which can be helpful for busy professionals. Coursework for an online Higher Education Administration doctorate require that students complete a number of research projects, papers, and a dissertation.

About Online PhD Programs in Higher Education Administration

Online doctoral programs are usually more interactive than traditional courses. Learners are expected to participate in weekly discussion boards, group projects, study scholarly readings, and write lengthy papers. In addition to course work, PhD in Higher Education Administration candidates conduct in-depth research within their area of interest and write a dissertation reporting the findings and discussing future implications. As with any field of study, online PhD degrees in Higher Education Administration allow students to specialize in an area of their interest. Some popular areas of specialization include budgeting and finance, human resources, business management, or an academic area such as mathematics or English. Since most higher education administrators were at one point teachers themselves, many choose to continue with their interests in an area of academic study. Online programs in Higher Education Administration are offered by University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Liberty University Online, and Capella University.

Year One:

  • Survey of Administrative Research. Offered by University of Nebraska – Lincoln's Educational Administration doctoral program, this course allows students to analyze educational problems, study research findings, and take part in discussions.

Year Two:

  • Dissertation Proposal Development. The prerequisite of this course is a research-intensive course. As the name suggests, students develop their dissertation proposals with the help of faculty mentors and advisers.
  • Social, Political, and Ethical Aspects of Higher Education. Students are asked to analyze, evaluate and integrate the political, social, ethical, economical and cultural issues impacting higher education.

Year Three:

  • Doctoral Seminar. Students can only take this University of Nebraska at Lincoln course with permission from a faculty mentor. Students then work either individually or in small groups to take develop projects that address the interaction between research and practice.
  • Student Development, Challenges and Successes. Offered as an elective in Capella University's online Leadership for Higher Education PhD curriculum, this course asks students to examine the theoretical and research literature related to successful student development, developmental issues, and challenges facing college students in the United States.
  • Organizational Theory, Planning and Change. In this online PhD course, students focus on the cultural aspects of educational organizations, the design and implementation of organizational strategies, and the contexts that affect structure and change.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln's online PhD program requires six hours of on-campus coursework. As part of the residency requirement, Capella University online students must attend three four-day colloquia seminars. At these colloquium seminars, students can interact with faculty and peers and take part in self-reflection exercises, research and critical thinking activities, as well as a final assessment. Two examples of dissertations written are “Discussion Boards in Online Courses” and “A New Paradigm: Successful Strategies for Success in Planning in Higher Education.”

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Higher Education Administration

In the education field, earning advanced level degrees online has become more accepted and widespread. There is less of a stigma in online education than there was a decade ago. That being said, however, there are more fellowship and scholarship opportunities offered by traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions that offer this PhD program, such as Barry University, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, University of Massachusetts at Boston and Washington State University. Some of the criticisms of earning an online degree in this field, however, include high tuition costs and missing out on experiencing face-to-face time with peers and professors. Fortunately, all online PhD programs in Higher Education Administration require on-campus coursework and seminars which will greatly enhance your learning experience.

Application & Admission Requirements

University of Nebraska at Lincoln requires a completed online application (one for graduate school admission, one for the Educational Administration program), one set of official post secondary transcripts, a detailed rÇsumÇ, three recommendation letters and GRE scores. Applicants must also submit three samples of writing or research as well as a statement of goals. To be considered for admission into Higher Education Administration PhD programs, applicants must have a master's degree from an approved, accredited institution, a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, post secondary transcripts, membership in a research library, and three years of professional work experience in a leadership position. Applicants at Capella University must also submit a completed application, official post secondary transcripts, and a 3.0 cumulative GPA from their master's degree program. Applicants must also have three years of licensed teaching experience and must submit a Licensure Disclosure and Responsibilities Acknowledgement and a Certification of Teaching Experience form.

Career Options & Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PhD or Ed.D is usually necessary for top positions in student affairs. Deans and chairpersons at colleges and universities typically have doctoral degrees from institutions accredited by NCATE or the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC). Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for educational administrators is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Possible career options for graduates with PhDs in Higher Education Administration include:

  • Chief Development Officer: These individuals are typically in charge of a department at a college or university and as such manage events, student relations, and earn around $141,000 annually.
  • Registrar: Crucial to any higher education institution, a registrar is responsible for overlooking the student enrollment processes. Registrars typically earn around $71,000 annually.
  • Administrative Assistants: Through working in collegiate departments and helping organize student and faculty files, administrative assistants typically earn around $72,000 annually.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Applicants can apply for scholarships and fellowships from professional organizations, such as Phi Delta Kappa International, who offers multiple scholarship and fellowship opportunities for Higher Education Administration PhD candidates who are also members. Another option is finding out whether your employer is able or willing to handle your tuition expenses. offers more information on available scholarships for education students.

  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln Fellowships. UNL offers three kinds of fellowships ó Othmer, Chancellor's and Edgren Tuition ó for newly admitted full-time doctoral students. Fellowships are merit-based and for United States citizens only.
  • Educational Administration Scholarship Award. Offered by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) for graduate students who are aspiring superintendents, this scholarship awards $2,500. Recipients are honored at the AASA's National Conference on Education and are given a $500 travel allowance.
  • Phi Delta Kappa Graduate Fellowships in Educational Leadership . PhD candidates who are members of PDK International are eligible for a number of fellowships and scholarships such as the Donald H. and Verna S. Duncan Fellowship, Past President Emery Stoops Fellowship, the Memorial-Howard Soule Fellowship and many more.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it.
  • Talk to current PhD candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.