Higher Education

The mission of the Higher Education program is to prepare individuals for researching, analyzing, and managing the critical problems in postsecondary education.


To prepare individuals for researching, analyzing and managing the critical problems in postsecondary education.

Student listening in classOur graduates hold positions as:

  • Administrators
  • Researchers
  • Faculty Members
  • College Presidents
  • Staff Officers in Colleges and Universities
  • Staff Officers in Public and Private Agencies & Associations


The Higher Education Program is located in the Department of Education Policy Studies within the College of Education, at The Pennsylvania State University. Its primary goal is the preparation of individuals who are capable of researching, analyzing, and managing the critical problems in postsecondary education. The Program uses the knowledge of several related disciplines to study postsecondary education systematically, and then applies this learning to the professional challenges faced by researchers and practitioners in the field.

Graduates pursue a wide variety of careers, including positions as administrators, researchers, faculty members, and staff officers in colleges and universities or in public and private agencies and association. Positions of graduates range, for example, from Director of The ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, to a faculty member in the University of Michigan's Higher Education Program, to Chair of the Educational Leadership Department at Florida State University. Our graduates are college presidents, top administrators in state-wide coordinating agencies, and vice presidents and deans of colleges and universities. Others are involved in national foundations and associations. Additionally, publication activity of our graduates is noteworthy and extensive, and several are leading scholars in areas of higher education.

That our graduates are so highly placed is due, at least in part, to the emphasis of the Program on providing a variety of opportunities for students to work with faculty and other professional staff at the University. A close association exists between the Program and the research-oriented Center for the Study of Higher Education, also located in Rackley Building.

Professional staff in other administrative offices of the University serve as affiliate faculty members in the Program and are available to assist students in their educational and career development. All Program faculty are able to provide students with individually tailored opportunities for study leading to the master's and doctoral degrees.

Students from the Higher Education Program are encouraged to pursue academic work, through the minor (or cognate), within other academic fields at Penn State, including policy analysis, marketing, organizational behavior, sociology, political science, history, philosophy, educational psychology, educational theory and policy, speech communications, women's studies, and English.

Finally, although the positions for which students in the Program prepare themselves are diverse, students and faculty alike recognize the need for a degree of unity in the pursuit of higher education as a field of study. Consequently, a core of courses is recommended for all students, while still allowing for sufficient individual variation in order that special interests and expertise may be developed.

Student Population

Students in the Higher Education Program come from across Pennsylvania, various other states, and several foreign countries.  About a quarter of our students attend classes on a part-time basis. Approximately 20% seek the D.Ed., 60% the Ph.D., and 20% the M.Ed.