This is an archived copy of the 2017-2018 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit

Note: As of catalog publication in April, this program has been approved by the Board of Visitors and sent to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia for consideration as a new degree program. The university cannot accept applications or enroll students in this program until SCHEV approval has been granted. 

The program prepares students for positions in higher education administration, student development, non-profit higher education associations, and government organizations. Today's higher education professionals are required to address both the needs of incoming traditionally aged students, as well as those of older students returning for a degree and special populations. The wide range of student backgrounds in the current complex context requires a holistic approach to college student development.

This master's degree will prepare future higher education leaders who understand higher education in the digital age, student development, multicultural and diverse populations, program development, professionalism, and learning assessment. This multidisciplinary program offers both thesis and project capstone options and is full and part-time student friendly. Alumni hold positions in areas such as career development, academic advising, assessment, facilities management, admissions, and residence life.


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the departmental website.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Transfer Credit

Courses applied to the degree are subject to the following restrictions: a maximum of 6 credits may be taken through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; a maximum of 15 credits may be transfer credits; a maximum of 6 of the transfer credits may be from other accredited institutions.

Transfer credits include credits taken before first enrolling as an admitted degree-seeking student (at another institution, in another Mason graduate program, or in Mason non-degree status) or credits taken at another institution after admission to the degree program through study abroad or study elsewhere (which requires prior written approval of the director and the dean). Additional information may be found in AP.6.5.3 Transfer of Credit.

Banner Code: LA-MA-HESD

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 36

Core Courses

HE 603Higher Education in the Digital Age3
HE 605Learning Assessment3
HE 606Diversity in Higher Education3
HE 610Research Designs in Higher Education3
HE 621Higher Education in the United States3
HE 644Student Services in Higher Education3
HE 646Student Development Theory3
Total Credits21

Optional Practicum

Depending upon prior work experience, students may be encouraged to complete a 150 hour practicum related to the student's learning and career goals.

HE 685Practicum3
Total Credits3

Thesis or Project Capstone

Students may choose a thesis option or project option as described below. Electives can be taken outside of HE courses and should be selected in consultation with the advisor.

Thesis Option

Students selecting the thesis option will complete the course work below. In addition to HE 799 Higher Education Thesis, students will take an additional research methods course, a research apprenticeship, and two electives.

One additional research methods course offered at Mason with approval of an advisor.3
HE 785Research Apprentice3
Select 6 credits of electives 16
HE 799Higher Education Thesis (3 credits required) 23
Total Credits15

HE 685 Practicum may apply to this requirement based upon the work experience and with the approval of the student's advisor.


A thesis is a rigorous scholarly inquiry that requires the collection of original data and is presented in a traditional, formal, written format. It is informed by experience gained from the research apprenticeship. The guideline and deadlines for thesis submission are set by the University and administered by the University Dissertation and Thesis Service.

Project Option

Students who select the project option will also complete four electives (12 credits) approved by the advisor.

Select 12 credits of electives 112
HE 798Higher Education Project (take 3 credits) 23
Total Credits15

HE 685 Practicum may apply to this requirement based upon the work experience and with the approval of the student's advisor.


A project is a product the student creates from existing literature such as a traditional research monograph that is smaller in scale than a thesis and/or does not rely on the collection of original data. It is a deliverable with a practical application, such as a manual, handbook, or workshop grounded in research literature.