Master’s in Higher Education

Master’s in Higher Education

Overview

College is a critical stage in anyone’s life journey. Beyond simply getting accepted, students need the proper resources and professionals to help them thrive through college and beyond. Be a part of helping college students succeed.

PLNU’s master’s in higher education is designed to prepare graduates to serve in a variety of roles in which they’ll help students from traditional, nontraditional, and special populations succeed at any two- or four-year college or university. Our fully online asynchronous program is offered to students throughout the state of California and approved states in the U.S.

Choose the track for your career goals

We offer two tracks: Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Higher Education. Both programs consist of the same number of units, however, they differ in the trajectory they prepare you for, as well as completion time. The M.A. program is designed for those who want to continue working with students in higher education. Those in the M.A. program do not have to complete a thesis, but they do need to complete a research project. The M.S. program is designed for those seeking to pursue a doctoral degree. This track does require a thesis.  

M.A. vs. M.S. Comparison

  Masters of Arts (M.A.) Masters of Science (M.S).

Who it's for

The master of arts designates a terminal ending of the candidate’s scholarship; the degree is designed with a final action research project that integrates the candidate’s learning in the program with a field-based project that draws conclusions that are practical, relevant, and reflective of the candidate’s teaching or leadership experience.

The master of science prepares a candidate for future scholarship in an area of interest. The candidate completes a five-chapter thesis that includes a relevant literature review, applies research methodology, and critically analyzes data to inform practice and theory. This degree provides a direct pathway into the proposed PLNU Ed.D. doctoral program.

Program start

Spring, summer, fall Spring, summer, fall

Program Structure

Online Online

Schedule

Asynchronous

Asynchronous

Accreditation

WSCUC

*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.

WSCUC

*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.

Program Highlights  Receive your M.A. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.

Receive your M.S. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.

Scholarships

Available?

Yes Yes

International Student 

Eligible?

No No

 

Two compelling concentrations

PLNU now offers two concentrations for the master’s in higher education program. Discover which is right for you:

College Counseling and Advising:

Ideal for those who want to work at community colleges, four-year colleges, and nonprofit organizations. This concentration involves fieldwork focused on counseling and advising techniques, community interventions, and student-centered support services. 

You’ll be prepared to work in career opportunities such as:

  • Adjunct counselor
  • Student success advisor
  • Academic success coach
  • Academic advisor
  • And other student support roles

Student Affairs:

Perfect for those interested in working at four-year universities, nonprofit organizations, or college ministries. This concentration involves fieldwork focused on various student affairs department roles, co-curricular program reviews, and student retention and support. 

You’ll be prepared to work in career opportunities such as:

  • Resident director
  • First year experience
  • Student conduct
  • Student activities & programs
  • Student clubs & organizations
  • And other student development roles

Gain classroom experience as you learn

Completion time for this program varies. Students take between 16–22 months.

The master’s in higher education program at PLNU is fully online asynchronous and consists of 36 semester units of coursework, including 335 hours of required fieldwork in a higher education context. Fieldwork is tiered with some initial requirements completed through assignments, observations, informational interviews, workshops, or conferences leading to a field placement when 250 hours are completed over two semesters (125 hours per semester).

Some courses require hours aligned with an assignment and may be completed at the same time as fieldwork. Master’s in higher education students will also have access to departments and individuals who may help complete these course requirements, and students will complete a thesis project based on their specific research interests. PLNU Graduate and Professional Services and the master’s in higher education program provide ongoing support for students in the way of faculty advising, fieldwork placement, writing, career services, and thesis coaching.

Lasting network of support

PLNU’s Education Associates alumni network keeps you connected long after graduation. Faculty members have a reputation for staying in touch and continuing to mentor students. Career counseling and additional professional development opportunities are always available to you.

Professional preparedness

Courses are aligned with industry standards that prepare graduate students to enter a career in higher education or leverage for the next step in their current position. Graduates apply relevant knowledge and research that can be used to design, implement, or manage programs to support the success of college students.

Accreditation: WSCUC

Pursue your purpose

Discover a deeper understanding of your purpose as it relates to serving the overall well-being of college student success.

Upon completion of PLNU's master’s in higher education, graduates will be able to/demonstrate:

  1. A proficient understanding of the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for various roles in higher education contexts.
  2. Identify leadership theories, skills, and competencies required to effectively manage and lead in higher education.
  3. Application of research-based academic advising/counseling when assisting college students to persist, engage, and thrive.
  4. Utilize cultural literacy, humility, and flexibility in anti-racism practices in education planning, career goals, advising, personal development, and postsecondary transitions.
  5. Understand how to engage in meaningful discussions and actions that contribute to the promotion of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion on a college campus.
  6. Demonstrate critical thinking in understanding historical, political, and societal factors that have influenced higher education as an embedded part of United States society, including current trends in innovation and globalization.
  7. Design college student programming, implementation, and assessment of the needs of diverse and identity-based populations at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and in various higher education contexts (e.g., community colleges and four-year IHEs).
  8. Support students in utilizing successful learning practices in their program or course modality; remote, online, hybrid, or in-person formats.
  9. Utilize data and research to inform decision-making in planning to address contemporary issues in higher education (e.g., anti-racism, crisis management, mental health, risk assessment, substance abuse education, violence prevention, health and wellness practices, and spiritual/faith identity development, career readiness, and much more).
  10. Understand how to research, analyze, and apply ethical and legal standards in student affairs.
  11. Understand how to apply student development theories in leadership and management roles related to the support of emerging adults.

Professional Licensure or Certification

This program is approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC), where Point Loma Nazarene University is physically located. Credential programs such as the PPS and teaching credentials within PLNU’s School of Education are approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Information about out-of-state requirements in teacher credentialing is available on this website.

Application Information

Are you ready to take the next step and apply?

We're here to make the entire process a simple one. We'll walk you through the application process, answer your questions, and get you one step closer to earning your degree.

Program Start Date(s):

  • Spring 2024 Quad II — March 11, 2024
  • Summer 2024 Quad I — May 6, 2024
  • Summer 2024 Quad II — July 1, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad I — September 2, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 28, 2024

Application Deadline(s):

  • Spring 2024 Quad II — February 28, 2024
  • Summer 2024 Quad I — April 24, 2024
  • Summer 2024 Quad II — June 19, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad I — August 21, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 16, 2024

The Selection Process

The educational context at PLNU will challenge you to live a full life that integrates the pursuit of knowledge with beliefs, values, and actions. While honoring diverse perspectives and beliefs, Christian values and principles are woven into the educational experience. We understand your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it reflects you as a person. At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. Your undergraduate GPA is an important piece of your application, but if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0, you may still be eligible for admission based on your application package as well as the exceptions policy per your particular program.* Therefore, we strongly encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor, who will advise you regarding your qualifications and provide specific information about the admission under the exceptions process.

To be admitted into PLNU's master’s in higher education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

Application Checklist

Note: The application is completed entirely online with the exception of transcripts, which can be submitted electronically or directly to PLNU, and test scores, which should be submitted electronically.

  1. Submit an online application for admissions (including $50 non-refundable application fee, which is waived for PLNU alumni, current or former military and their dependents, and PLNU employees).
  2. Submit official transcripts with proof of earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.* (If you are a PLNU alumnus, please notify your counselor to have your transcripts retrieved. You do not need to request transcripts from the PLNU Office of Records.)

    Official transcripts must be sent to:
    Point Loma Nazarene University
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    3900 Lomaland Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92106

    Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:
    gradprocessing@pointloma.edu

    *Please note, official transcripts must be sent directly from the regionally accredited institution.
  3. Submit a personal essay, two-three pages in length and double-spaced.
  4. Once you have submitted your admissions application, your two selected professional recommenders will automatically be sent the auto-generated document to complete on your behalf. If you'd like to include a written letter in addition to this required document, you may do so, but it's unnecessary.

Admissions Interview: You may be eligible for an interview waiver. Eligibility can be discussed in more depth with a PLNU admissions counselor once you've started your application. 

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

*Exceptions Policy: If you have below a 3.0 GPA in your baccalaureate degree, you will need to speak with your enrollment counselor for more information on the exceptions materials needed for your particular program.

Career Opportunities

Specific career opportunities are generally within student affairs or related areas such as: counseling within a community college context, advising, career services, disability services, residential life, enrollment counselors, and other student support services related to the growth, development, and success of college students (traditional and nontraditional). 

This program’s concentrations in College Counseling and Advising and Student affairs allow you to take the path you’re most passionate about. Those who are interested in being a college counselor, student success advisor, or academic advisor should choose the College Counseling concentration. The Student Affairs concentration is perfect for those interested in more personally investing in students’ lives as a resident director, student activities, clubs or organizations coordinator, and other student development roles. 

Individuals seeking the M.A. in Higher Education desire entry-level positions in higher education or are current professionals in higher education who desire to deepen their knowledge of student development theory and practice in order to expand their career opportunities. Those seeking the M.S. in Higher Education are pursuing a doctoral degree, which is required for certain levels of higher education leadership positions.

Financial Aid and Student Support

We take seriously the role of providing you with financial, academic, and career support so you have the tools you need to be successful at PLNU and beyond. That’s why we offer a holistic support system that focuses on your unique experiences, particular needs, and personal and professional goals — resulting from our deep concern for you, our student.

With a focus on authentic relationships and personalized attention, our goal is to help transform you so you can follow your calling in your own career and life.

Financial Aid and Student Support

Frequently Asked Questions

What's required to be admitted into this program?

To be admitted into PLNU's master’s in higher education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript. You must also have an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. If you don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement, please contact your enrollment counselor regarding the exceptions process. All applicants will also need to submit a writing sample and complete an interview.

See the application checklist to learn more about what's required to apply and be admitted into the program.

Can I work while completing the Program?

Yes! As a fully online program, the master’s in higher education program allows you to complete your classes while working, and many candidates for this program are already working in higher education. Be aware that during your two fieldwork semesters, you’ll likely require some flexibility with your job schedule. Check with your employer to see if they can offer flexible hours to support your education while fulfilling fieldwork requirements. There may be some remote options for fieldwork, but this is not guaranteed.

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You’ll have the option to apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and other special types of aid through PLNU’s Student Financial Services. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

Do I have to attend my online classes at a particular time?

This program is fully online, meaning classes are asynchronous. However, a required fieldwork component and reflective coaching are built into the program, as well as optional networking and connection opportunities that will enhance your experience if you can attend them.

Is a master’s thesis required to earn the degree?

The master’s thesis is only required for those enrolled in the M.S. track. Those enrolled in the M.A. track are required to complete a four-unit course called culminating research and design. This course is designed to prepare students for the research and the writing of a master research paper focused on a single research question. After successful completion of this course, students will receive a university mentor to guide them in completing their research project. It is important to note that a second master’s research project must be completed in each area for which a candidate seeks a specialization.

What does thesis coaching look like in this program?

For those in the M.S. track, your thesis instructor serves as your professor for the thesis course but also as your coach as they help facilitate and support you through the thesis process.

What does the research project look like?

For those enrolled in the M.A. track, the research project is designed to prepare students for the research and the writing of a master research paper focused on a single research question. After successful completion of this course, students will receive a university mentor to guide them in completing their research project. It is important to note that a second master’s research project must be completed in each area for which a candidate seeks a specialization.

How do I complete my field hours?

The fieldwork hours for the master’s in higher education program are a total of 335 hours; 100 hours will be strategically embedded into foundational coursework and 250 hours are completed over two semesters; 125 hours each semester. The fieldwork coordinator and faculty work closely with candidates and host sites to support the fieldwork requirements. 

Of the 50 hours embedded in GED 6071S Seminar in College Counseling and Student Development, 30 hours can be met through conferences, workshops, or presentations that focus on the knowledge, skills, and research associated with student affairs/development in higher education.

How long does it take to complete this program?

Completion of the degree depends almost entirely upon the energy, confidence, motivation, and availability of the individual student’s schedule and life circumstances. Students take between 16-22 months. A student’s financial aid package can, at times, dictate the academic load that must be maintained.

When are the courses offered?

Courses for the degree program are offered in eight-week quads throughout the calendar year. All courses are offered fully online asynchronous. 

For whom is this degree appropriate?

The master’s in higher education is intended for candidates who are currently working in higher education in various roles, including student affairs, admissions or enrollment, or other student support service departments, or for those looking to begin a new career in this field.

If you’re hoping to work with high school students, you should instead consider the Pupil Personnel Services Credential program.

If you’re looking to become a teacher at the elementary or high school level, you should consider a Master of Arts in Teaching.

I’m not yet working in education. Is this the right program for me?

If you’re looking to enter a career in higher education because you’re excited to serve diverse college/university student populations, then yes! If you’re looking to become a k-12 school counselor or teacher, you should consider a Master of Arts in Teaching or another related program.

How many units does the master’s in higher education require?

Both the M.A. and M.S. tracks have 36 units. They differ in completion time because the M.S. track requires a thesis, which takes longer to complete.

Will this program prepare me to work in a high-school setting?

No, if you want to work in a high school setting, you’ll need to complete a master’s in school counseling.

How many units can I transfer in from other universities?

Students can transfer up to six graduate units from other schools toward the degree — providing that coursework is less than seven years old and was not counted toward another credential or degree program.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the master’s in higher education program, view the PLNU catalog. 

M.A. Course Information M.S. Course Information

Department Faculty