This completion option takes place over two years of full-time study at University Park (9 credits for four semesters, and an optional internship experience during the summer between the two academic years), and involves competing for and obtaining an established graduate assistantship in a Penn State office, most of which are in an area of student affairs. Students who pursue this option will complete 18 credits of required courses, 12 credits of electives (also we offer strong recommendations for 6 of these credits), and 6 credits in an “area of emphasis." The student affairs area of emphasis is strongly recommended in this regard. If another area of emphasis is desired, students may have to take 1 or 2 online courses through Penn State’s World Campus.

We also encourage students to consider exploring additional professional experience beyond their graduate assistantships, including during the summer between the two years (as mentioned above), and/or in an on-campus internship (10 hours/week) during their second year of study, and with the approval of their supervisor and the degree program coordinator.

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For those students who are interested in the M.Ed. with Graduate Assistantship Program, focusing on Student Affairs and are admitted into the program, we anticipate an opportunity to compete for approximately 15 assistantships that will begin in the 2020-2021 academic year. The availability of these assistantships is contingent upon sufficient funding. In addition, some of these assistantships may also be made available to prospects in other master's programs. Assistantships that have been filled by higher education graduate students in the past include: student activities; parents programming; residence life; advocacy offices; career services; student conduct; admissions; fraternity/sorority life; and, the Schreyer Honors College.

Graduates of the M.Ed. in Higher Education Program will:

  1. Demonstrate reading proficiencies to deal effectively with theoretical, empirical, and policy material in higher education.

  2. Demonstrate writing proficiencies to analyze problems of practice, draw upon and apply concepts studied, and synthesize ideas into relevant and useful conclusions.

  3. Demonstrate critical thinking skills that require suspended judgment and the application of relevant theory to varied areas of practice.

  4. Demonstrate responsibility toward the goal of becoming a proactive, reflective life-long learner.

  5. Demonstrate the ability to collaborate with others to facilitate problem-solving and decision making through reflective practice.

  6. Demonstrate an understanding of purpose, audience, and context in communication activities.

  7. Demonstrate appropriate use of communication technologies.

  8. Demonstrate an ability to draw upon key theories, concepts and research findings to assess current issues and challenges facing higher education institutions.

  9. Demonstrate the ability to collect and analyze data to improve practice in particular administrative areas of higher education.

  10. Demonstrate an understanding of professional and ethical practice.

Required Courses (18 credits)

HIED 808              Pro-Seminar in US Higher Education and Student Affairs
HIED 545              Introduction to US Higher Education
HIED 841              Research and Assessment
HIED 842              Administrative Leadership in Higher Education
HIED 846              College Students and Their Success
HIED 596              Capstone
EITHER HIED 507 (Research and Assessment in Student Affairs) OR HIED 801 (Foundations of Institutional Research)

Areas of Emphasis

The M.Ed. program offers 7 areas of emphasis as follows:

  1. Advising*

  2. Administration+

  3. Development*

  4. Enrollment Management*

  5. Institutional Research*

  6. Student Affairs

  7. Teaching and Learning+

Each area of emphasis involves taking two required courses (3 credits each). Those areas of emphasis above with an asterisk (*) involve taking both required courses online.  Those areas of emphasis above with a plus sign (+) involve taking one of the required courses online.  The student affairs area of emphasis is currently offered at University Park only.

NOTE: A student may opt to have no area of emphasis.


All students must take at least 6 credits of elective courses. In so doing, they may choose among other higher education courses, or choose among courses from other academic programs at Penn State.