Higher education PhD programs draw upon various practices and theories to teach students how to function as teachers and administrators in postsecondary institutions. During their degree program, students will enroll in courses that discuss policies and practices in postsecondary institutions. By the end of their degree program, students will be prepared for careers in postsecondary teaching, research, and administration. Higher education professionals must possess skills in writing, problem-solving, organization, listening, and communicating. Moreover, since teachers and administrators work alongside young students, they must demonstrate compassion, empathy, and patience. A higher education doctoral degree features a variety of specialized courses, including educational policy, sociological analysis of education and policy, theories of knowledge and education, and more.

Why a Ph.D. Degree?

Completing a Ph.D. program is a fundamental step in securing positions as college professors, university administrators, and educational researchers in today’s postsecondary institutions. Students who have a passion for conducting research will likely find the Ph.D. experience rewarding, since the primary objective of a doctoral degree is to teach students how to perform professional research and analysis. Higher education PhD graduates often end up accepting positions as professors, administrators, curriculum designers, and policy analysts in four-year colleges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), most postsecondary teachers have at least a Ph.D.; however, a master’s degree will suffice for teaching positions in community colleges, technical schools, and trade schools. The BLS reports that postsecondary administrators are required to have a master’s degree, however there are some schools that may require their administrators to have a Ph.D.

Getting Into a Ph.D. Degree Program

Requirements for admission into a higher education Ph.D. degree program vary, depending on the college. However, most programs require the following from their candidates:

Inside a Higher Education Ph.D. Degree Program

Doctoral students usually complete their degrees in three to five years. Throughout their studies, students are required to delve into research based on ongoing topics, trends, and developments in the educational field. In addition to this research, students will also be expected to complete a dissertation that advances and contributes to knowledge in the higher education industry. The experience students gain from student teaching, dissertation research, and doctoral courses will aid them in obtaining postsecondary careers.

Many online colleges and virtual learning programs are adding Ph.D.’s to their curriculum. Unlike a traditional university, online colleges offer students the opportunity to complete self-paced assignments, independent projects, and virtual exams. Since online courses allow students to complete their assignments at their own pace with a scheduled due date, it is important that students be self-disciplined, motivated, organized, and have access to an Internet server when they need to submit their assignments. Students who work full time, have unpredictable schedules, or are otherwise unable to attend school outside of their home usually find a higher education PhD online more flexible with their lifestyles.

What’s Next for Higher Education Ph.D. Degree Holders?

After completing a PhD program, students are prepared to accept positions in four-year colleges as professors, administrators, policy analysts, and curriculum designers. According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers earn an average of $62,050 a year, while college administrators earn an average of $83,710 a year. The BLS further reports that both these positions are expected to increase over the 2010-2020 period (postsecondary administrators: 19%, postsecondary teachers: 17%). Keep in mind these are just two of the many positions students can obtain with a Ph.D. degree.