Northwestern’s master of science in higher education administration and policy degree is a 12-course professional master's program that prepares graduates to work throughout the higher education landscape at colleges and universities, state and federal government agencies, and higher education focused consulting firms and non-profits. Higher Education-focused coursework includes law and ethics, assessment, budgeting, student development theory, policy, diversity equity and inclusion, leadership, and function-specific topics like enrollment management, global partnerships, and crisis management. Graduates complete a three-term long master’s research project, similar to a master’s thesis, and a 400-hour internship (which can be waived for students with significant higher education experience). Full-time students complete the degree in 4 terms (1 year) while part-time students complete the degree in 18 months to 5 years.
Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy Curriculum Overview
Our curriculum is designed to expose students to the full institutional and social context of the American higher education system. The course of study helps students to consider all of the important factors and stakeholders that will impact their professional practice.
For the past ten (10) years, more than 90% of our graduates have received a job offer within 90 days of graduation.
More than 70% of our students earned their bachelor's degree outside of Illinois
The master's degree can be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students can complete the degree in four (4) quarters / (12) twelve months. Part-time students can complete the degree in as little as (6) quarters / (18) eighteen months.
The table compares three different timeline approaches of the master’s degree in higher education administration and policy based on start quarters, internships, and the number of courses per quarter for full-time and part-time students
Full-Time 1-Year Cohort
Part-Time (18 months)
Part-Time (3 Years)
Possible Start Quarters
Summer or Fall
Summer, Fall, or Spring
Summer, Fall, or Spring
Courses Per Quarter
*Part-time students with previous or current work experience in Higher Education may waive the internship requirement.
Designed to expose students to the full institutional and social context of the American higher education system.
Helps students to consider all of the important factors and stakeholders that will impact their professional practice.
Experience with a wide range of careers and functions within higher education gives graduates career flexibility and helps them discover what types of positions most closely fit their interests.
Diversity as a Valued Resource
Students come from a vast array of educational and professional backgrounds. Some students have years of experience in higher education, and others are just launching their careers.
Still others are making career changes, often from fields such as law, teaching, engineering, banking and many others.
This diversity adds depth to classroom discussions as students share their experience and viewpoints with their peers in a uniquely collaborative context.
Research and Inquiry
Conduct in-depth research on a current issue in higher education and contribute to the knowledge in their field.
Gain research and assessment skills that you will utilize continuously in your professional practice.
Address the real-world problems that exist in higher education today through systematic study and deliberate action.
Students' own passions and experiences guide their learning.
Our courses offer flexibility for students to examine areas of particular interest within each topic.
The Master's Project and internship experience(s) give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the issues within higher education that are most important to them.
Connecting Theory to Practice
Courses are taught by practitioners and researchers with a wealth of experience in higher education.
These instructors help students connect what they are learning in the classroom with what they will encounter in their professional practice.
Students who are working full-time or completing an internship can start implementing what they learn in their courses right away.
Exceptional Career Placement
More than 90 percent of our graduates have jobs within three months of graduation.
The program offers a variety of high-quality career and networking services, including interviewing and resume workshops, networking opportunities, salary negotiation workshops, career panels with practitioners in the field of higher education, and one-on-one career coaching.
Additionally, students benefit from a strong network of talented colleagues that includes classmates, instructors and distinguished alumni.
The master's degree can be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis.
Full-time students can complete the degree in four (4) quarters / twelve (12) months.
Part-time students can complete the degree in as little as (6) quarters / eighteen (18) months years.
Each course meets just once per week in the evenings to allow students to work or obtain internships during the day.
Full-time students can start program in either Summer or Fall term.
Part-time students can start the program in all terms except Spring term.