University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Master's Program

The master’s program is designed for students interested in mid-level management positions in higher education administration. Our students come from many undergraduate majors, and prior job experience (e.g., as an R.A.), is strongly recommended. Many of our students begin the program directly after completing undergraduate programs – others been working in higher education for a number of years.

Our program is designed as a 2-year full-time, cohort-based program (15-18 students per year), but part-time enrollment is possible as well. We admit new master’s student in the fall semester only. This program is a rigorous academic program focused as much on reading and writing as it is on practical experience. Our faculty members focus intensely on academic writing in the coursework, and our expectation is that students will be well prepared to enter a doctoral program upon completion of our program. In fact, master’s students take their elective courses with current higher education doctoral students. For more detailed information, read our Higher Education Program Handbook.

Upon completion of the master’s program, our students accept a variety of positions in student affairs, including resident directors, student activities coordinators, and Greek Life coordinators. Our students also have accepted a variety of positions in other area of college and university administration, such as academic advisors, admissions coordinators, and development officers.

The Graduate School minimum G.P.A. is a 2.7, but the higher education program more typically uses a 3.0 cut off for admission. Assistantships are offered at UMass, but they are not required. The application process for assistantships is separate from the program admission process.

Assistantships are available in a variety of areas that change from year to year, and include full tuition credit as well as great health benefits. Pay for graduate students is in the $22/hour range, with assistantships running from 10 to 30 hours per week. For more information see Assistantships and Funding.


The practicum experience provides an opportunity for you to obtain more experiential-based learning related to higher education/student affairs. 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.

After the practicum has been completed, there is a class in the fall that provides an opportunity to reflect upon your experiences with your classmates and an instructor. For more information on the Practicum experience, read our Practicum Handbook.

Integrative Seminar

In lieu of a comprehensive exam or a master’s thesis, the culminating experience for the program is case study project that addresses a practical, real world challenge using the skills and knowledge gained throughout the program of study. During the Spring semester prior to graduation, master’s students take a capstone course, entitled Integrative Seminar during which master’s degree candidates develop, write, and orally defend/present their integrative paper.

Students have an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency with the higher education competencies by applying them to a real world higher education challenge that they select. Drawing from the practicum, assistantship, full-time work, or some other real-life experience students identify a particular problem or issue within higher education/student affairs and develop a case study that includes a proposed solution(s).  The paper includes an extensive literature review and addresses at least five of the eight Higher Ed Program competencies.

For more information about the master’s program, contact Chrystal George Mwangi,