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College of Applied Human Sciences: School of Education

Higher Education, PhD

The PhD program in Higher Education focuses on preparing future scholars, faculty and policy analysts who will critically analyze higher education issues and chart the future of colleges and universities.

Students in this program will be prepared to conduct new research and undertake leadership roles in higher education.

The PhD in Higher Education includes the following course components:

  • A higher education core designed to provide breadth across critical areas of HIED.
  • A specialization within HIED, which may include: Academic Affairs/Curriculum and Assessment, College Student Development, Administration, Organizations and Policy, or an Individualized Specialization.
  • A research core that provides the methodological competencies to produce original research as well as the ability to critically evaluate published scholarship.
  • A cognate outside the Higher Education program to allow for in-depth study in a field related to student interests and research foci.
  • A research, teaching and/or policy practicum.

Your Degree Plan


Aerial view of Martin and Woodburn Halls

The PhD program in Higher Education prepares future scholars, faculty and policy analysts who will critically analyze higher education issues and chart the future of colleges and universities.

Students take a common set of five core courses before selecting a specific area of specialization they’d like to focus on related to their research and professional interests and goals.

Students also take a research core, consisting of qualitative, quantitative and advanced methods courses to support them in their dissertation research. Finally, PhD students enroll in mentored teaching and research credits to gain experience in both arenas under the mentorship of a faculty member.

Program Outcomes
Upon completion of the doctoral program, graduates will be prepared to:

  • Develop scholarly work that advances the field of higher education.
  • Be an invested and collaborative member of academia.
  • Be reflective, ethical and effectual leaders of higher education organizations and institutions.
  • Apply research and theory to the practice of higher education administration.
  • Critically evaluate scholarship, policy and practice in order to promote equity, access and social justice.

Program Delivery
The doctoral program will follow a hybrid format, with some classes offered fully online, others offered as hybrid face-to-face and online and the remainder offered in face-to-face format. Face-to-face classes will be conducted on weeknights or weekends, in order to accommodate the needs of students who may be traveling distances of three or more hours.

Courses offered online as part of the Higher Education Administration MA Program will continue to be offered online, serving dual functions as MA and PhD courses. Instructors will differentiate assignments to tailor learning activities for masters and doctoral students.

Take advantage of special options related to this major:

  • Honors

    Expand your curiosity — and enhance your curriculum — through the WVU Honors College. Two programs are offered: Honors Foundations for first- and second-year students and Honors EXCEL for third- and fourth-year students.

    Explore Honors

The WVU Difference

What sets this program apart from its competitors?

  • This is a hybrid program: some classes are offered fully online, others are hybrid face-to-face and online and the remainder are in face-to-face format.
  • Face-to-face classes are conducted on weeknights or weekends.

Learn by Doing

Learning happens outside the classroom. Get involved.

Students employ critical, qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods in their dissertation research. Recent topics include:

  • Experiences of Latina students at a PWI
  • Academic dishonesty
  • Academic advising roles
  • Land-grant institutional engagement with global and local publics
  • Place-based practice decisions of Appalachian medical students
  • Supports and barriers to women in higher education leadership

Students also engage with faculty on research projects. For example, Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber is currently mentoring a doctoral student on a critical qualitative research study that explores the experiences of transgender and nonbinary students in creative arts programs. She is mentoring another doctoral student through a funded multi-state research project that investigates educational equity in rural schools and communities.

Hands-on learning

  • Mentored teaching
  • Mentored research
  • Policy practicum

Each of the above options is equivalent to a three-credit course. Under the mentorship of a faculty member or policy professional, students gain experience that can afford them a competitive edge on the job market. Students often select a mentored teaching experience based on the type of course they’re interested in teaching as well as course content. Students use mentored research experiences to gain practice in specific research methods or to collaborate with a faculty member on original research with the goal of publication.

Connect with other students who share your academic interests as a member of:

View all of the student organizations you can join.

  • Graduate Teaching Assistantship
  • Research Assistantship
  • Student Affairs Assistantship

Attending college will prepare you for many things. The Higher Education major will give you the following skills:

  • Analytical skills
  • Research Skills
  • Leadership
Outside of the Evansdale Crossing building.

What you learn outside of the classroom is just as important as what you learn during class. We’ll help you follow your curiosity.

Careers and Outcomes

How does this degree prepare students for a career?

Education Administrators, Postsecondary

Plan, direct or coordinate research, instructional, student administration and services and other educational activities at postsecondary institutions, including universities, colleges and junior and community colleges.

May require a Graduate Degree

Median Salary: $96,910

Possible job titles include: Academic Dean, Dean, Provost, Registrar.

Explore Career

Education Teachers, Postsecondary

Teach courses pertaining to education, such as counseling, curriculum, guidance, instruction, teacher education and teaching English as a second language. Includes both teachers primarily engaged in teaching and those who do a combination of teaching and research.

May require a Graduate Degree

Median Salary: $63,910

Possible job titles include: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Education Professor, Professor.

Explore Career

Higher Education Faculty

Suggested Experiences and Résumé Builders
  • WVU Higher Education Student Association
Related Professional Organizations Alumni
  • Portrait of Jason Hedrick.
    Jason Hedrick

Higher Education Research Analyst and Consultant

Suggested Experiences and Résumé Builders
  • WVU Higher Education Student Association
Related Professional Organizations Alumni
  • Photo of Susana Mazuelas Quirce.
    Susana Mazuelas Quirce
  • Portrait of Katlin Swisher.
    Katlin Swisher

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Suggested Experiences and Résumé Builders
  • WVU Higher Education Student Association
Related Professional Organizations Alumni
  • Photo of Justine A. L. Burnett.
    Justine A. L. Burnett
  • Professional Portrait of Meridith Balas.
    Meridith Balas

Meet Your Community

The Higher Education family will inspire and support you.


Common questions and answers about Higher Education.

  1. Our EdD program is designed primarily for people interested in pursuing senior leadership positions at higher education institutions, or who are interested in working for consulting or policy groups. Our PhD program can also benefit those students interested in pursuing leadership positions. In addition, the PhD prepares students for faculty and research roles.

  2. Many of our students work full-time. Our courses are offered in the evenings, and students may enroll full- or part-time in coursework.

  3. Courses meet once weekly and are offered in-person and online in the evenings. Online courses meet synchronously. This enables us to create and maintain a community of learners who can support each other through the program.

Admission Requirements

To be eligible for admission into a graduate program at WVU an applicant must submit official, bachelor's degree transcripts from a regionally accredited institution and hold a GPA of at least 2.75. WVU operates decentralized admissions. Decentralized admissions allows each graduate program to set its own application requirements in addition to the University requirements.

  • Applicants can seek admission to the doctoral program in Higher Education with a previously earned master's degree. To be considered for admission, applicants must upload the following documentation within the graduate application:

    • Résumé or curriculum vitae
    • Transcripts from all previous institutions
    • Writing sample
    • Personal statement
    • Letters of recommendation (2)

    Once the application is submitted and (unofficial/official) transcripts are received, your application will be reviewed for an admission decision.

    Please contact the Office of Student Success at 304-293-4800 for more information about the application process.

    Additional program admission information

    __Admission application form deadline: Fall:January 15, Spring: November 1, Summer: February 1

    Applicants are encouraged to submit their application with unofficial transcripts from all previously attended institutions. Submitting unofficial transcripts speeds up the application review process.

    If you are offered acceptance, you are required to submit official transcripts from all previously attended institutions to be fully admitted into your intended graduate program. You will not be able to register for classes until the official transcripts are received. The preferred method to submit your official transcripts is through a secure online service, such as eScript, The National Clearing House or Parchment, to

    Alternatively, if you are unable to submit an electronic version of your official transcript, the physical, sealed, un-tampered with documents can be mailed to:

    WVU Graduate Admissions, PO Box 6510, Morgantown, WV 26501


    WVU Graduate Admissions, 1 Waterfront Place, 2nd Floor, Morgantown, WV 26505

    Directions for submitting international official transcripts.

    International applicants must submit proof of English language proficiency.

    Only applications with all completed requirements will be considered for admission.

    View Acceptance Policy and Admission Procedure

    For questions about the program, contact Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber via email at

  • Application Deadlines

    Each graduate program sets their own terms for admission and application deadlines. Applicants can only apply for admission for the terms displayed below. Any questions regarding the application deadline should be directed to the graduate program representative.

    • Fall: January 15
    • Spring: November 1
    • Summer: February 15

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