Graduate Certificate Programs in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Graduate certificate programs in higher education administration and student affairs are academic programs that provide training and instruction in the principles and practices of managing academic and student affairs in higher education. They also teach students about the history and structure of the American system of public and private higher education, and the tools used by administrators to assess and maintain institutional integrity and programmatic quality. These programs are offered by accredited colleges and universities and typically consist of a relatively small cluster of graduate courses that are designed to prepare students for careers in higher education administration and student affairs.
Graduate certificate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree and thus do not enroll students who have not completed their undergraduate studies. Graduate certificates typically include courses designed to teach students skills and training they can use directly in the workplace and thus provide students with a more convenient and affordable alternative to pursuing a full master’s or doctoral degree in higher education, which can take two to three or more years to complete.
Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs Explained
College and universities are complex institutions with many formal functions, responsibilities, and institutional imperatives that extend beyond their primary mission to provide students with a quality education. In addition to academic concerns, institutions of higher education are places of residence, dynamic communities in which students, faculty, and staff have consonant and competing interests, and business enterprises that require competent financial, personnel, and operations management. Higher education administrators and student affairs coordinators are trained individuals who understand the organizational structure of colleges and universities, are familiar with federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to institutions of higher education, and have the communication and management skills to work with others, including deans, department chairs, residential life staff, faculty, and students to ensure institutional integrity, improve the quality of student experiences, and promote the values of the college or university at which they are employed. This may involve working in admissions, financial aid, alumni relations, career resources, academic advising, and other vital areas that contribute to the success of a college or university and that help lead to better, more fulfilling outcomes for the students these institutions serve.
Identifying and Classifying Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs Graduate Certificate Programs
There are several key characteristics of graduate certificate programs in higher education administration and student affairs. While there is no formal naming convention for these programs, most are designated as graduate, post-baccalaureate, or post-master’s certificate programs higher education, higher education administration, or student affairs administration. While most of these programs accept qualified applicants who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, there are post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs that require applicants to have completed a master’s and/or doctoral degree prior to enrollment.
All of these programs, regardless of their names and admissions requirements, culminate in the conferral of a graduate certificate rather than a graduate degree, are largely limited in scope to only the knowledge and skills required to work in the field of higher education and student affairs administration. Most graduate certificate programs in higher education administration are offered by colleges or schools of education within larger universities, although they may also be offered by departments of humanities and social sciences, graduate schools, and schools and colleges of professional or continuing studies. In many cases, credits earned while completing a graduate certificate may be accepted for transfer credit by schools that offer master’s programs in higher education administration, if a student decides to pursue further studies in the field of higher education after completing a graduate certificate program.
Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration Graduate Certificate Coursework
Students who enroll in a higher education and student affairs administration graduate certificate program are generally required to take four or five graduate-level courses that provide career-oriented training in the administrative operations of colleges and universities. This typically includes courses covering topics in the history and current structure of the American system of higher education, the laws and regulations pertaining to private and public colleges and universities, the formal and informal processes of student affairs program evaluation and assessment, and administrative procedures related to budgeting, personnel management, and the day-to-day operations of institutions of higher education. While specific academic requirements and course names vary by program and by school, the list below provides a representative overview of the types of courses that are offered by higher education administration and students affairs graduate certificate programs.
- Faculty, Curriculum, and the Campus Ecology
- Higher Education Law and Policy
- Program Evaluation, Assessment, and Accreditation in Higher Education
- Financial Management in Student Affairs
- Foundations and Trends in Student Affairs
- Academic and Student Affairs Organizations
- Student Development in College
- Multicultural Practices, Diversity, and Inclusion for Student Services
Online Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs Programs
Most schools structure graduate certificate programs in ways that can best accommodate a broad range of applicants, including recent college graduates, graduate students, mid-career professionals, and working students who are unable to attend classes during traditional business hours. To accomplish this, schools are increasingly offering graduate certificate programs online, which has the additional benefit of extending the reach of a program to students who do not reside near the school offering the program and who are unable to relocate in order to be closer to a school’s campus.
Online graduate certificate programs in higher education administration and student affairs provide students with the same training and instruction as their campus-based counterparts. However, they do so by utilizing learning management systems (LMSs), which are online learning platforms that can support synchronous and asynchronous online instruction. Synchronous instruction is online instruction that takes place in real time, such as live streamed lectures and virtual classes that require students enrolled in the course to be logged on to the program’s LMS when classes are held. Asynchronous instruction is a mode of online instruction that encompasses a broad array of learning activities that do not have a real-time component. Pre-recorded lectures, instructional videos, and interactive class modules that can be accessed at any time via a program’s LMS are examples of asynchronous instruction, as are assignments that students complete at their own convenience and submit by specified due dates.
Many schools now offer graduate certificate programs in higher education administration and student affairs that are fully online and that do not require students to attend any campus visits. However, some programs require students to visit campus a limited number of times for instructional residencies that are generally short in duration (e.g. two to three days to a week). GraduateCertificates.com classifies a program as online if it requires three or fewer campus visits per year. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified on this site as blended or hybrid programs, which is the designation for programs that provide a mix of online and traditional, campus-based instruction. While blended/hybrid programs represent a more flexible and convenient alternative to fully campus-based programs, they may not be a practical option for students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs
Each of the schools listed below offers an online graduate certificate program with a higher education and/or student affairs administration curriculum. These programs provide an overview of the types of higher education administration and student affairs graduate certificate programs that are currently offered online by accredited colleges and universities.
Northeastern University in Boston, MA has an online Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Administration program that it offers through its School of Professional Studies. The program is designed for bachelor’s program graduates who are interested in seeking mid- or senior-level administrator positions at colleges and universities, as well as for experienced administrators in other fields who want to move into academia. The Northeastern program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. It consists of four courses that confer 12 graduate credits, all of which are eligible for transfer if and when a student in the graduate certificate program opts to pursue Northeastern’s Master of Education (MEd) program with a specialization in Higher Education Administration. For more information on the certificate program, visit Northeastern University at www.northeastern.edu.
Colorado State University (CSU) offers an online Graduate Certificate Program in Student Affairs Administration program through its Division of Continuing Education. The program consists of four courses that confer 11 credits and that can be completed in one year of part-time enrollment. Credits completed in the graduate certificate program can be applied toward a Master of Science (MS) in Student Affairs in Higher Education program offered by CSU if and when a student opts to pursue a full master’s degree. CSU’s graduate certificate program in student affairs administration requires applicants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. For more information, visit CSU’s online division at www.online.colostate.edu.
The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) offers an online Certificate Program in Student Affairs and Higher-Education Administration through UC Berkeley Extension. The program is a graduate certificate program that requires applicants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. It consists of four courses for 12 graduate credits that may be applied to the Master of Arts (MA) in Organization and Leadership offered by the School of Education at the University of San Francisco (USF) if and when a graduate from UC Berkeley Extension’s Student Affairs and Higher-Education Administration certificate program opts to pursue USF’s MA in Organization and Leadership degree. The UC Berkeley certificate program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. For more information, visit UC Berkeley Extension at extension.berkeley.edu.
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