Online PhD in Higher Education

The face of education is changing rapidly in our nation. The K-12 system is hampered by funding constraints that threaten to undermine the classroom experience, while higher education has to develop new strategies to cope with the influx of older students determined to make a mid-course career correction. Online Doctorate Degrees in Higher Education provide candidates with both the solid academic foundation and the practical experience necessary to help shape the nature of education and educational institutions in the 21st Century. The PhD is essentially a research degree, and enrolling in one of the top Online Doctoral Programs in Higher Education prepares students to conduct research and scholarship in all dimensions of higher education. Graduates of Online Doctoral Programs in Higher Education go on to become university or college faculty members or administrators, institutional researchers, and public policy analysts. Increasingly, adult education strategies, electronic learning and other distance techniques are dominating the higher education landscape. Pursuing a PhD in higher education online will give students not only a theoretical basis in digital applications, but also first-hand knowledge of the e-learning techniques that are transforming post secondary education.

About Online PhD Programs in Higher Education

Online doctorate programs in higher education offer all coursework online, utilizing digital resources and email communication to fulfill assignment goals. However, online higher education PhD programs require students to fulfill a residency period at the physical campus, and therefore are not entirely online programs, but are rather more hybrid in form. Core curriculum in the best Higher Education PhD programs online will focus on teaching research and analysis skills that can be used across a wide variety of subjects and disciplines. Students will receive a thorough grounding in educational and organizational theory. Students will learn how to think critically and communicate effectively within the collaborative medium that is the educational institution, and will study the top methods for effective adult education. Coursework frequently includes the following types of courses, as taken from Capella University's online higher education PhD curriculum:

Year One:

  • Theory and Methods of Educating Adults. Using the theories behind adult development as a framework, this course trains online PhD higher education students in the skillful application of teaching methods that promote adult learning.
  • Teaching Adults. An overview of effective teaching strategies, this online higher education doctorate course explores successful methods for teaching the adult learner.
  • Classroom Assessment in Education. This course is a thorough overview of the various forms of assessment used in adult classrooms, such as test administration and presentations, and encourages students to develop the skills necessary for determining reliability and validity of these methods.

Year Two:

  • Critical Thinking in Adult Education. This course delves into the strategies employed by educators to facilitate complex thought within adult learners.
  • International and Multicultural Perspectives in Post secondary and Adult Education. Students come from different backgrounds, both academically and culturally. This course will explore differing perspectives and encourage an inclusive classroom for all adult learners.
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process. Using an overview of various evaluative methods, this course looks at the techniques behind planning, implementing and analyzing the effectiveness of the programs employed by institutions of higher learning.

Year Three:

  • Faculty Leadership. Online PhD higher education students will learn how to effectively coach fellow faculty members in the development of effective adult learning programs.
  • Higher Education Curriculum Development and Teaching Strategies. This course provides a deep study of adult curriculum design and the methodology behind effective teaching strategies that maximize adult learning.
  • Critical Skills for Facilitating Online Learning. As a very relevant course for students enrolled in online PhD programs in higher education, this course delves into effective strategies for utilizing the internet for coursework and distance learning.

After students enrolled in online PhD in higher education programs complete their coursework, they take an exam known as the comprehensive examination, which tests their newly developed knowledge and skills in the areas studied during coursework. Questions cover subjects including effective teaching methods, the evaluation of educational processes, and the reliability of assessments. Once students pass the examination, they select and propose a topic for their dissertations. Past dissertations in the field of higher education include The Impact of Experiential Instruction Methods and Student Self-regulatory Behaviors on Writing Performance Among College Students. by M. Butcaris and A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study by John Moravec. There are many theories and methods behind educating the adult learner, and there are also many opportunities for improving higher education programs. As a result, there are a multitude of topics from which online higher education PhD students can choose for their dissertations.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Higher Education

A doctoral candidate must be dedicated, hard-working and ambitious, no matter the medium he or she is using to pursue educational objectives. In addition, candidates for an online doctorate in higher education must demonstrate a flair for both analytical and innovative thinking, as they will be called upon to critique existing educational systems in an objective fashion and to recommend answers to long-standing problems that are more than simply rehashes of solutions that have been unsuccessfully tried before. As online coursework is becoming more prolific in the field of adult education, students that have received their higher education doctorate degrees online will have an upper edge over their peers, due to their personal experiences with online learning. Online PhD degrees in higher education are therefore viable alternatives to campus-based programs. However, students with work and other daily obligations must keep in mind that accredited online PhD programs in higher education have residency requirements, during which students must visit the physical campuses of their universities. Depending on the topic chosen, dissertations may also require some travel, as some research in the field of education requires the participation of schools or students, in order to evaluate programs and methods of instruction.

Application&Admission Requirements

Online higher education PhD programs require applicants to complete a Masters in an area related to education, such as a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Education, prior to enrollment. Students are usually expected to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate enrollment, and will be asked to submit transcripts as part of the application process. Most if not all students seeking their online PhD in higher education have worked in the educational field as well, either in teaching or administration. It is common for schools that offer online doctoral degrees in higher education to request students to submit a writing sample with their applications, usually in the form of a personal statement or a statement of program goals. These statements give the admission departments the opportunity to gauge writing ability and applicant motivation.

Career Options&Job Market

The nation’s educational system faces more challenges today than ever before, some of them familiar difficulties and others quite new. The need for leaders in the field of higher education is evident, and can be seen in the promising outlook of education administration positions, including higher education administration. Higher education PhD online graduates use their newly honed knowledge and abilities to establish careers as administrators in colleges and universities, but that is not the only opportunity available to them. Graduates also forge careers as professors, a position that averages $64,370 annually or education analysts. Another option is a career as a high school principal, with the goal of establishing programs that prepare students for higher education, or as a consultant, both of which have excellent outlooks and good pay as future careers.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Though online courses tend to be more affordable than their campus counterparts, education is still a costly venture. When one takes into consideration the various fees, including those for the application, books, and residency requirements, tuition becomes quite expensive. Capella, for instance, charges $4,485 per quarter for coursework alone, not including associated fees. Walden charges $4,380 per quarter, a price that also does not include residency and book fees. As a result of the various expenses, applying for financial aid is an important step in the admissions process. Fortunately for students interested in obtaining their Higher Education PhD, there are various grant, fellowship and scholarship opportunities available, a few of which are listed below.

Essential Advice

  • Diverse teaching and other education experiences can help make your resume stand out among your peers. Consider joining a professional association for further opportunities for professional development as well.
  • Talk to current students and recent graduates to gain a better understanding of what will be expected of you as a student pursuing an online doctorate in higher education.
  • Contact the professors that teach the courses you are interested in taking to get a sense of their goals, expectations and research interests. When you're enrolled in a PhD program, you will be working closely with these professors.
  • Apply for financial aid even if you don't believe you will receive anything in return. You may be pleasantly surprised!