What is Higher Education?
A PhD in Higher Education prepares graduates for various positions in education including researchers, professors, and academic administrators. PhD holders can also be found in government and other business circles. Once you’ve earned your doctorate, you qualify for many high-level jobs that often pay well.
Professionals who work in higher education are often researchers, department heads, faculty members, and administrators who are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of secondary education. They know about admissions and placement tests, various academic disciplines, trends in education, student development, the finance and economics of higher education, and other key topics.
It’s important to note that higher education is sometimes referred to as adult education because the majority of college students are at the adult level. Some schools offer a PhD in in Postsecondary and Adult Education which focuses more on theories of adult learning and how to best teach individuals from a variety of backgrounds.
Earning Your PhD in Higher Education
Earning a PhD in any subject is an enormous undertaking. PhD programs can take up to six years to complete and require students to write a dissertation as a graduation requirement. A dissertation is similar to a thesis, but typically much more in-depth and comprehensive in scope.
But before you even apply to a PhD program in higher education, it’s important to note that admissions requirements vary by school. Each school has their own admissions criteria and policies. However, there’s a good chance you’ll be required to submit the following:
- Official transcripts for all undergraduate and any graduate work: Transcripts provide an assessment of your overall competence and performance as a student. Your grade point average (GPA) will be included as well as your major GPA.
- Letters of recommendation: Some schools require applicants to submit up to four letters from employers, former teachers, and other professionals who can speak to your academic strength. Make sure to get in contact with them immediately as these letters often take time to write and submit to each school.
- A personal statement: A personal statement or letter of intent is your opportunity to express why you are the right person for PhD candidacy at XYZ school. Your statement should highlight your academic and research interests, as well as your professional goals and life experiences that have shaped who you are today.
- Standardized test scores: You might be required to submit your Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. The GRE is an often an admissions requirement for many graduate and PhD programs. If you’ve already taken the GRE, check to make sure your scores are still valid.
- Interview: Some schools require applicants to come in for an interview. An interview allows faculty to meet potential students and for potential students to ask questions of faculty. Basically, an interview is a Q & A session. If a school asks you to come in for an interview, have a list of questions to ask the interviewers.
Once you’ve assessed the admissions criteria for the schools you’re interested in, it’s time to CAREFULLY review each program and possibly set up a meeting with the department head or admissions counselor. If you’re interested in a program that focused on both adult education and higher education, this is your chance to make sure you’ll get the education you seek. Each program is unique and offers students a different set of benefits.
What to Expect from a PhD Program in Adult Education?
Once you’ve been accepted into your program of choice, you’ll hit the ground running with coursework and examinations. You might even start a practicum on internship at a local college or university. A practicum is an opportunity for students to gain on-the-job training with professionals in the field. Consider it a guided-work study that provides valuable insight into your future career.
Depending on the program, typical coursework may include:
- Administration and Governance of Higher Education
- Educational Leadership
- Educational Policy Analysis
- Higher Education Finance
- Introduction to Postsecondary Law
- Organizational Analysis
- Social Theory
The above is a just a sampling of the types of classes you might take. Each school will require you to complete a series of courses and seminars that add up to a well-rounded education.
If your program focuses more on adult education, you may also take classes that cover the following topics:
- Methods of Teaching in Adult Education
- Curriculum and Program Planning
- Nature of Adult Education
- Teaching Disadvantaged Adults
- Workforce Education
These programs program provide courses and experiences that prepare graduates to enter adult education as a field of study. You’ll also learn about higher education and student affairs administration.
Career Possibilities with a PhD in Higher Education
Once you’ve earned your degree, you’re ready to enter the workforce or perhaps you’ve already secured a job through a previous employer. Either way, your job marketability increased dramatically with a PhD on your resume. It’s time to make your mark in the higher education field!
Some job titles you may consider include:
- Assistant Director of Graduate Services
- Dean of Student Affairs
- Director of Planning
- Director of Leadership
- Executive Director of Research, Curriculum and Planning
- Faculty in Doctoral Higher Education
- Senior Associate Dean
Typical job duties of postsecondary education administrators who work in student affairs includes:
- Advise students on topics such as housing issues, personal problems, or academics
- Communicate with parents and families
- Create and maintain student records
- Create, support, and assess nonacademic programs for students
- Schedule programs and services, such as athletic events or recreational activities
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $83,710 in May 2010. Salary is determined by a number of factors included location, type of employer, if you work at a public or private institution as well as your level of experience.
If you know that working in higher education is the right field for you, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about your PhD. Administrative positions and faculty jobs are quite rewarding and offer many different challenges. Our list of accredited schools will you begin your journey towards a long career in the postsecondary arena.