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Comparing an MEd and EdD in Higher Education Administration

higher education students in the classroom

You’re passionate about shaping the future of higher education–that’s certain. However, thinking about getting a graduate degree in higher education administration can leave you uncertain about your options. Determining the right program can open doors to new opportunities and launch your career advancement. So, which is right for you: an MEd or an EdD?

While both degrees offer the opportunity to lean into your passion and provide unique possibilities for personal growth, there’s a significant difference in who is prepared to pursue an MEd vs. an EdD. 

Let’s compare the programs and pose questions you can ask yourself to get you closer to your path.

MEd in Higher Ed

A Master of Education (MEd) in Higher Ed is designed for professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and skills in areas such as student affairs, enrollment management, and academic advising. This specialization offers a comprehensive understanding of higher education administration principles and practices. 

With coursework covering topics like organizational leadership, student development theory, budgeting, and diversity in higher education, an MEd provides practical skills that can be immediately applied in a higher education setting.

How long does an MEd in higher ed take? 

You can expect to take two to three years of full-time or part-time classes to complete your master’s in higher education. At SMU, the master’s degree is designed to complement your professional schedule whether you have a full-time role or you have a graduate assistant position.

EdD in Higher Ed

A Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Ed is a terminal degree ideal for those aspiring to leadership positions within colleges, universities, or educational policy organizations. This program emphasizes research, leadership, and advanced problem-solving skills. This program is designed for mid-career professionals from a variety of post secondary institutions and settings, which include public and private institutions, community colleges, and state, regional and national governance systems and organizations

Coursework is meant to build and expand upon what is taught at the masters level, and often includes subjects such as data analysis, educational policy, strategic planning, and resource management. Pursuing an EdD equips you with the knowledge and tools to tackle complex issues in higher education administration and make a lasting impact.

How long does an EdD in higher ed take? 

The time it takes to complete an EdD can vary depending on various factors, such as program structure, study load, and whether the program is pursued on a full-time or part-time basis. On average, an EdD in higher education can take between 3 to 5 years to complete.

Career Opportunities and Advancement

With an MEd in Higher Ed, you can pursue various roles within the higher education sector, such as student affairs coordinator, academic advisor, senior admissions officer, or program coordinator. An MEd degree positions you for mid-level management positions and offers opportunities for career growth within specific functional areas. If you just began working in higher education and are looking to advance your career, an Med is the correct route for you. 

On the other hand, an EdD in Higher Ed opens doors to executive-level positions such as college president, dean, or director of specialized departments. The research and leadership skills acquired through an EdD program position you for strategic decision-making, policy development, and influencing change within higher education institutions or related industries. This is the appropriate degree if you’re already well into your higher education career and you have both a bachelor’s and master’s degree to support your doctorate degree. 

Looking for a longer list of career options for both degrees? Download our guide: Your Future in Higher Ed– Guide to Pursuing Your MEd or EdD in Higher Education Administration

Comparing Curriculum and Coursework

While both programs cover similar topics in higher education administration, the focus and depth of the coursework differ significantly. An MEd program provides a specialized curriculum that focuses on specific skills and real-world applications in order to launch your career in higher education to a mid-to-upper level. 

An EdD program emphasizes research and theory, preparing you for diverse leadership roles including provost, dean, and president. The curriculum is designed to promote innovation, problem-solving, and high-level organizational management. 

Higher Education Administration at SMU

Advancing your career in higher education is a journey and either degree can serve as a stepping stone toward your goals. When deciding between an MEd and an EdD, it's essential to consider your personal and professional goals. 

  • Where do I see myself in 5 years? 10 years? 
  • Am I academically ready to pursue an advanced degree? 
  • How much time can I commit to my degree? 
  • What would the balance look like for my personal and professional life?
  • Where will I go to pursue my EdD or MEd?

If you are seeking practical skills and immediate career advancement within a specific area of higher education administration, an MEd is the right fit. Meanwhile, if you have a long-term vision of leading institutions or influencing educational policies and already hold a master’s degree, an EdD can provide the research and leadership foundation necessary to achieve those aspirations.

At SMU, our MEd and EdD programs in higher education both launch leaders into the next phase of their higher education careers. Our advice to you: embrace the opportunities, stay true to yourself, and never stop learning and growing in this dynamic and rewarding field.

Dig deeper into the difference between an MEd and an EdD with our downloadable guide. 

Your Future in Higher Ed– Guide to Pursuing Your MEd or EdD in Higher Education Administration

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