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Higher Education (Ph.D.)


Campus: Virginia Tech Blacksburg Campus
Instructions: Residential/On Campus

Program Overview

The doctoral program in Higher Education (HED) provides mid-level professionals with the essential knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary for advanced practice in the field of student affairs and higher education administration. The Ph.D. in Higher Education is a 96-hour program that prepares graduates for a broad range of administrative and leadership positions in colleges and universities including academic affairs, student affairs, roles in policy, planning, and resource management, assessment, enrollment management, and others. Some graduates work as policy analysts for state and federal agencies, or professional organizations. The program also prepares students for faculty positions in graduate programs in higher education.


Why choose this program?

Graduate professional education is concerned with enhancing a broad spectrum of talents in students. Some of these talents are addressed by structured, in-class activities determined primarily by faculty, while others are addressed by out-of-class activities that often are student-directed. Both types of learning opportunities are incorporated into each student's Plan of Study. The Higher Education program at Virginia Tech is built upon collegial relationships between faculty and students throughout the period of graduate study. Faculty serve as teachers, advisors, colleagues, and mentors to students.

What You'll Study

The curriculum consists of studies in five areas: (1) Research/Measurement/Statistics, (2) Dissertation, (3) Foundations, (4) Concentration/Applied Studies, and (5) Cognate. A minimum total of 96 semester hours of graduate study, which includes the dissertation, is required for the doctoral degree. Since doctoral students matriculate with varying degrees of professional experience and master’s degrees from different institutions, each student’s program of doctoral study is individually designed and may include courses that are transferred in from the student’s master’s degree program.

The faculty advisor and student examine the student’s preparation and design a program of study that complements and enhances the student’s educational and professional experience and interests.

The Doctoral Program Guide provides detailed information on the curriculum, phases of doctoral studies and benchmarks along the way, and general expectations of students.

Graduate students are prepared to work as student development educators and administrators in higher education. Specifically, students may expect post-graduate employment at cabinet levels of student affairs and academic administration or as faculty in graduate preparation programs. Many students have gone on to work with non-profit, governmental, and non-governmental policy-oriented organizations, as well.

Graduates from the HED Ph.D. program will acquire knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in four specific Areas:

  • Professional Practice,
  • Scholarship,
  • Professional Involvement, And
  • Service

The Higher Education program welcomed three new faculty members in fall 2019: Dr. Sharrika Adams, Dr. Chase Catalano, and Dr. Tonisha Lane. Click on their profiles for more information.

Doctoral students enroll both full-time and part-time, the latter completing their degrees while employed. Students are typically required to enroll for nine hours for two consecutive semesters in order to complete their residency experience (alternative residency plans may also be approved). For most part-time students residency can be completed during the dissertation phase.

This degree program is offered at the Blacksburg campus. The Blacksburg campus offers students the full services of the university, including an extensive library, technology support, and the Graduate Life Center. 


Admission to the doctoral program in Higher Education is determined by an admission committee composed of program faculty. Admission criteria include: an earned GPA of 3.3 (on a 4.0 scale) on previous graduate work; a master’s degree in counseling, student affairs, or a closely related field; and three to five years or more of successful professional experience in student affairs or higher education administration. The student’s career goals should be consistent with professional status as an educational leader.

Visit this page for information on how to apply, including requirements, deadlines, and application fee.

The HED Admissions Coordinator will guide applicants through the process of applying for available Graduate Assistantship positions.  While funding is not guaranteed, admitted students are generally offered a “package” with an offer of admission and a graduate assistantship position. The GA position and provides a monthly stipend, a health insurance benefit and covers tuition (not fees)

Potential GA Opportunities Include:

  • Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid
  • Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity
  • Department of Recreational Sports
  • Cultural and Community Centers
  • Career and Professional Development
  • Office of First Year Experiences
  • Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life
  • Office of Housing and Residence Life
  • Office of Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program
  • Office of New Student and Family Programs
  • Office of Student Engagement and Campus Life
  • Office of Student Conduct
  • Pre-College and Pipeline Initiatives
  • The Student Success Center
  • University Academic Advising Center

A question on the application for graduate admission asks whether you want to be considered for a teaching assistantship. Check yes. Please note that Indicating that you wish to be considered for an assistantship does not mean that you will be offered one, only that you wish to be considered for one, if available.

Learn more about other available funding opportunities


Deadlines for Domestic and International Application
Fall: December 31

Claire K. Robbins, Ph.D.
1750 Kraft Dr., Room 2007
Blacksburg, VA24060

Kathy Tickle
Program Support Technician
Enrollment Services Specialist
402 Wallace Hall (0565)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-9721 |


Claire K. Robbins, Ph.D.
1750 Kraft Dr., Room 2007
Blacksburg, VA24060

Faculty Experts in Higher Education

Affiliated Faculty

Emerita and Emeritus Faculty Members

Don G. Creamer, Professor Emeritus, Higher Education
Joan B. Hirt, Professor Emerita, Higher Education, School of Education
Patricia Hyer, Affiliated Faculty; Associate Provost Emerita, University Provost’s Office
Steven M. Janosik, Associate Professor Emeritus, Higher Education, School of Education
Edward F. D. Spencer, Affiliated Associate Professor; Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs