Higher Education M.Ed.

a student sitting and listening to a lecture

As a master’s student in higher education, you’ll immerse yourself in the scholarship of the field while preparing for a career in university and college administration.

We cast a wide net in our coursework, examining foundational writing and leading research in higher education, as well as delving into associated work in sociology, psychology, history, and economics. Drawing on this base, our students engage in assessment, evaluation, and research projects on student experiences and higher education organizations that contribute to current thinking in the field. To complete the degree, students develop a case study project in the capstone Integrative Seminar and orally present/defend their resulting work. Not all of our students go on to doctorate programs, but all are well prepared to do so. There is also an opportunity to complete a dual degree with a masters in public policy administration and higher education (MPPA/M.Ed.).

In addition to coursework, our students gain practical experience in higher ed administration through a required practicum, assistantships, and other positions. The curriculum gives them opportunities to reflect on these experiences and integrate them into their scholarly work.

Some of our students come directly from undergraduate programs, while others have extensive experience in higher education. They have a wide range of undergraduate degrees and many worked in campus administrative offices as undergraduates. Most complete the master’s program in two years as full-time students, but part-time enrollment is possible as well.

Our alumni go on to work in higher education administration in such areas as student affairs, residential life, student activities, academic advising, admissions, assessment, policy, and development.

If you not only want to work in, but also transform higher education, we encourage you to applyFor more information about the master’s program, contact Jennie Southgate, jsouthgate@educ.umass.edu

You can also sign up for a virtual information session to find out more information in a group Zoom session. Feel free to drop in with a question or stay for the whole session. Fall 2022 information sessions will be hosted on the following dates at 4:00 p.m. ET.   

  • Tuesday September 20
  • Tuesday October 18
  • Thursday November 10
A student presenting a poster in a hallway

Course of Study

Sample full-time two year program plan (36 credits).

Course Description Credits
  First Year Fall Semester  
EDUC 643 Foundations of Higher Education 3
  Specialization Course 3
  Specialization Course 3
  First Year Spring Semester  
EDUC 641 Assessment, Evaluation & Research in Higher Education 3
EDUC 644 Critical Perspectives on Equity and Justice in Higher Education 3
  Specialization Course 3
  Second Year Fall Semester   
EDUC 698ED Professional Practice & Career Development in Higher Education 3
  Specialization Course 3
  Specialization Course 3
  Second Year Spring Semester  
EDUC 675 Master's Integrative 3
  Specialization Course 3
  Specialization Course 3

EDUC 643 Foundations of Higher Education

This course is the first course for students in the master’s degree program in Higher Education. There are several goals for the semester. As a survey course it is designed to introduce you to different areas of study within higher education. Hopefully you’ll discover topics that you’ll be inspired to delve in to in greater depth during your time as a master’s student. You’ll become familiar with the eight competencies in which you are expected to develop expertise during your time in the program. We’ll focus on your writing, particularly how to write an academic paper using scholarly resources, how to develop and support an argument, and the various aspects of APA style. We’ll discuss the importance good nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and self-care in your life and develop strategies to maintain balance in your life, both while you are a student and during your professional career.

EDUC 644 Critical Perspectives on Equity and Justice in Higher Education

This course is part of a two-semester introduction to the study of higher education for students in the Master's program. Its content focuses on the political economy of and oppression within higher education institutions. It does so using a variety of historical, sociological, and anthropological approaches to the study of higher education. By the end of the course, participants will be able to: 1) Summarize major changes in the history of higher education in the United States and describe their relationship to contemporary conditions in colleges and universities; 2) Situate higher education institutions within political, economic, and societal structures— specifically as they relate to structures of opportunity and cumulative advantage / disadvantage experienced by individual students; 3) Explain systems of power, privilege, and oppression within contemporary society and describe how higher education institutions both shape and are shaped by these systems; and 4) Evaluate contemporary higher education policy and practice utilizing a variety of critical perspectives drawn from history, sociology, and anthropology.

EDUC 641 Assessment, Evaluation & Research in Higher Education

This course provides an introduction to research from a higher education perspective. Students in this course engage in activities that support learning to understand the process of systematically researching a problem in the field of higher education and how to evaluate and interpret higher education scholarship. This seminar is designed to examine how the field of higher education applies research designs and methods to generate new knowledge. In other words, we read and discuss issues of higher education, but through the lens of research design and methods. Although we introduce and discuss many research methods, this is not a methods course. It is intended to be a design course primarily, with an introduction to methods and some methods application. The aim of this course is to help students link knowledge about higher education with the analytic, research, and communication skills necessary for informing and improving research, policy, and practice. Students interested in pursuing additional research methods coursework should consult with their advisor, including whether the course, Research in Higher Education, is appropriate to achieve their academic goals.

EDUC 698ED Professional Practice & Career Development in Higher Education

A minimum of 120 hours of approved practicum experience is required and provides an opportunity for you to obtain more experiential-based learning related to higher education. Most students choose to do their practicum during the summer months between the first and second year of the program, although for some it is more convenient to do it at a different time. The practicum includes at least 120 hours, and there is considerable flexibility in terms of sites and job descriptions, based on the interests of each student. You are responsible for locating your own practicum site – you should work closely with your academic advisers during this process. After the actual practicum has been completed, there is a required “Practicum” class in the fall that provides an opportunity to reflect upon your experiences with your classmates and an instructor. The Practicum Handbook describes the process in more detail and can be found on the Current Students page. Students who have had at least five years of full-time professional experience in higher education may request to waive the 120 hours of practicum experience (but not the course). To request a waiver, you must write a one-page statement describing your prior professional experience. This statement should be submitted to your adviser who will present the request to the faculty for approval.

EDUC 675 Integrative Seminar

During the spring semester prior to graduation, master’s students must take this capstone course. The course is the capstone experience for students completing their masters’ degrees in Higher Education Administration. It is intended to allow you an opportunity to reflect upon your educational experience in the master’s program and to demonstrate your knowledge of the higher education program’s core competencies. In the integrative paper you will investigate a real life challenge that stems from your professional practice (this could be your assistantship, practicum, or other work experience). The course culminates in a formal presentation.

The goal for this course is for each of you to develop a deeper understanding of the eight competencies associated with the higher education program. With two or more years of coursework and many more years of experience in higher education, you possess a great deal of knowledge from many different sources—including your own experiences as a student and administrator, informal theories that you have developed, formal theories that you have read about, and information synthesized from these and other sources. Your goal is to figure out how all of these things fit together to offer creative solutions to the many complex problems we face as higher education professionals.

Students with outstanding incomplete grades are not eligible for enrollment in this class. All outstanding work for courses with incompletes must be handed in to the instructor prior to the beginning of the semester when you plan to take Integrative. As part of this course, students will demonstrate their proficiency with the Higher Education program Competencies through a capstone project and an oral defense, as designed by the course instructor.

a student smiling and listening to a lecture

Sample Specialization Courses

  • EDUC 601 College Student Development Theory
  • EDUC 615T Impact of College on Students
  • EDUC 674 Leading Higher Education
  • EDUC 621 Managing Higher Education
  • EDUC 723 Organizing Higher Education
  • EDUC 691A Assessment Practices in Higher Education
  • EDUC 642 Principles and Practices of Student Affairs
  • EDUC 621A Higher Education Finance Policy
  • EDUC 621B Race, Class, and Gender in Higher Education
  • EDUC 683 Women in Higher Education
  • EDUC 614B Inclusive College Environments and Campus Cultures 
  • EDUC 614 College Access and Equity






Application Timeline

Application materials are due by January 2. Priority Deadline: December 1. We will continue to review applications until the final College of Education application deadline (January 2). However, we encourage applicants to apply by the December 1 deadline in order to obtain first priority for full consideration into the Higher Education concentration, and we strongly suggest that applicants interested in assistantships apply by the priority deadline.  Those who apply by December 1 and are admitted to the program will also receive priority consideration for assistantship opportunities with Residence Education: https://www.umass.edu/living/directory/residence-education.

 After we receive your application materials, they are reviewed by the Higher Education faculty, and acceptance emails are generally sent out by the end of February. Our admissions decisions are made prior to and independent from decisions about assistantships. Consequently, if you are admitted, you will hear from a higher education faculty member in February that you have been recommended to the graduate school for admission. An official notification of admission from the graduate school will follow shortly thereafter.

We host a Welcome Day for accepted applicants – usually this is held in late February or early March. All admitted students are invited to attend the event. It provides you an opportunity to visit our campus to learn more about the program, and to meet and interact with the faculty and current students. Some students are also able to interview for possible assistantships.


  • Generally we require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
  • Experience working in the field of higher education (e.g., as an R.A.) is recommended.
  • Our master’s students come from many different undergraduate majors (English, Communications, Government, Journalism, Political Science, Health Science, Economics, Sociology, Business Administration, History, Education, Media Studies).
  • The deadline for submission of all required application materials is January 2.
  • We typically do not admit students who already have a master's degree to our master's program—regardless of the field of study in which it was earned. If you already have a master's degree we encourage you to apply to our online master's programHigher Education Leadership & Administration Graduate Certificate Program or our doctoral program.

Required Materials

  • Graduate Online Admissions Application
  • Letters of Recommendation – A minimum of two letters of recommendation. At least one should be from someone who can speak about your academic background.
  • Official transcript(s) – An official transcript from all colleges/universities attended, undergraduate and graduate, where 6 or more credits were taken.
  • Personal Statement – Tell us why you are interested in pursuing a program in Higher Education, and why this is the right program for you.
  • Résumé/CV
  • Application fee
  • The GRE is not required


For more information about the master's program, contact Jennie Southgate, jsouthgate@educ.umass.edu.