Master of Arts in Higher Education Leadership

University Of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences

Program Description

Master of Arts in Higher Education Leadership

University Of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences

The MA in Higher Education Leadership is designed to provide professionals dedicated to the field of higher education with the ability to make an enhanced impact by expanding the way they collect and process information. Including research, organizational theory, change and more, the program provides opportunities for graduate assistantships and international experiences.

What can I do with this degree?

Students in the program are working in or have a career preference for higher education. The program prepares students for positions in higher education administration and student affairs at two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Alumni work in departments including (but not limited to) student activities, academic advising, residential life, admissions, financial aid, and Greek life.

Who should apply?

Prospective students include recent graduates, working professionals and career changers who currently work in or plan to begin a career in higher education. Though professional work experience is helpful, it is not required.

Our Students

Students in the MA in higher education leadership include professionals working full-time or part-time in higher education, as well as those seeking to enter the profession. Though many of our current students hold graduate assistantships in student affairs, some work full-time at colleges and universities in the San Diego area.

Learning Outcomes

Objective Area: Leadership and Development Theories
Outcome 1: Masters candidates will articulate prominent leadership theories in Leadership Studies, analyze and critique these theories, and apply these theories in the course of addressing a variety of organizational issues and problems.

Objective Area: Critical Thinking and Analytical Approaches
Outcome 2: Students will select relevant information, organize and evaluate the information, and apply it to issues of leadership.

Objective Area: Organizational Systems and Group Dynamics
Outcome 3: Students will demonstrate an understanding of key theories of organizational behavior and change, and effectively apply them in an organizational setting.

Objective Area: Cultural Competency Global Understanding
Outcome 4: Students will critically examine culture other than their own, and apply the knowledge gained in their personal and professional lives.

Objective Area: Self-Awareness
Outcome 5: Graduates will have an ability to reflect upon their own skills and limitations as leaders, evidenced by performance working with groups.

Objective Area: Higher Education Practical Application
Outcome 6: Make explicit connections to higher education practice and apply various theoretical constructs in the context of the workplace.
Outcome 7: Understand the unique characteristics of students and student culture in higher education.

Objective Area: Higher Education Policy and Historical Trends
Outcome 8: Understand historical trends in higher education and their implications for contemporary policy issues.


The MA in higher education leadership is a 36-unit program of study designed for students working in, or with a career preference for, higher education. Students may choose to focus on higher education administration or student affairs, or they may take coursework in both areas. Students planning to pursue a career in student affairs are urged to consider graduate assistantships made available through the Student Affairs/SOLES Collaborative, a partnership with the Division of Student Affairs.


*Student Affairs GAs will enroll in LEAD 594 - Student Affairs GA Seminar (1.5 units) each semester for a total of 6 units.


Electives (6 units)

Students complete 6 units of electives. Electives are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and may be drawn from SOLES, the School of Peace Studies, the School of Business and the School of Law. Electives drawn from other programs may require instructor approval in order to enroll. All students must complete 36 units to earn the MA degree.

*Students entering the program prior to 2015 should consult the Graduate Bulletin and their program handbook for degree requirements.

Application Checklist

  • The University of San Diego graduate school admission application.
  • One official sealed transcript from all colleges and universities attended, including community colleges. Foreign transcripts must be accompanied by a course-by-course transcript evaluation from World Education Services (WES).
  • A minimum of two professional letters of recommendation from professors or employers.
  • A current resumé or curriculum vitae.
  • A 500-word statement of purpose. Please include a brief narrative describing yourself, your career goals and the importance of graduate study at this point in your life. In addition, please address how diversity, inclusion, and social justice influence who you are today and how you would approach your work in higher education. You may discuss influences on your intellectual development, education and cultural opportunities (or lack thereof), and the ways in which these experiences have affected you. This should not be a recording of facts already listed on the application; it should give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are and why you are applying to graduate school at the University of San Diego. If you are in a graduate program at another university, please explain why you wish to leave.
  • International applicants only: official score reports for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Admission RequirementsStandardized Testing Requirements

  • No standardized testing is required in order to apply. Applicants who have taken the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test are welcome to submit scores, but this is not expected.
  • Applicants who feel that their grade point averages do not adequately represent their ability to succeed in a graduate program may find it helpful to submit GRE scores for consideration. For more information on preparing for the GRE, visit USD's Test Prep or call (619) 260-4579.

Education Requirements

  • Applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree prior to beginning the program. Applicants may apply prior to completing their bachelor's degree. In this case, please submit your most up-to-date transcripts, and if admitted, submit a second set of official transcripts after your degree is conferred.
  • The minimum cumulative grade point average is 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) in all undergraduate and graduate coursework.
  • This program does not have any specific prerequisite courses.

Experience Requirements

Professional experience is recommended, but not required to gain admission. Interview Requirements No admissions interviews will be required for this degree. Following a faculty review of completed applications, the most qualified candidates will receive offers of admission. All admitted students will be invited to USD to meet with leadership studies faculty, student affairs professionals, and current students and to interview for assistantships if interested. Admitted students who live outside California and surrounding states (Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, or Nevada) will have the option of submitting a video and participating in a phone interview for assistantships. However, out-of-state students are strongly encouraged to attend the campus visit, if possible.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is required of all international applicants and may only be waived if English is the applicant’s primary language or if he or she obtained a bachelor’s degree in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada or Australia.

  • TOEFL minimum scores:
    • Internet-based test: 83
    • Computer-based test: 237
    • Paper-based test: 580
  • IELTS minimum score:
    • Band score 7
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated December 13, 2017
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2018
2 - 3 years
Part time
Full time
1,450 USD
tuition per unit
USA - San Diego, California
Start date : Sept. 2018
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2018
USA - San Diego, California
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info