Post-secondary refers to any education taken after high school graduation. If you attend a college or university and earn a certificate, associate's or bachelor's, you have earned post-secondary education credentials. To nurture a career in this arena, you can specialize in post-secondary education by earning—you guessed it—advanced degrees. Although there are many degrees available, if you are seeking to work at a college, university, training center, vocational school or corporation, you will generally need at least a master's or doctorate level online higher education degree. Earning an advanced degree will allow you to work in higher education, whether it is through teaching or filing an administrative role including student affairs, admissions, or advising services. Higher education is the type of field that is perfect for professionals who want to work in education, but maybe want to work with adults or want to help fill in the gaps outside of the classroom.
THE CAREER PATH
Higher education can look different from the education of children and adolescents in many ways. Adult learners require different teaching methods, skills development, and are more independent in general. Higher education professionals may find themselves entering the field from a variety of backgrounds: some professionals may enter the classroom after years in a career like business or nursing; others may start by getting an advanced education in higher education and working their way up through the ranks of administration. There are two primary types of roles of higher education professionals:
- Post-Secondary Teachers – These are the professionals in the classroom, instructing students on career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. Many postsecondary teachers may also facilitate research and publish their own scholarly works. They are typically referred to as professors or faculty and are usually found in a particular department for a specialized degree field such as history, business, or music. Postsecondary teachers are typically required to have a PhD in their field of choice, but in some situations, they may qualify with a master’s degree. Postsecondary teachers usually need years of experience in order to qualify for positions, but they are in high demand right now, with an expected growth of 15% in the next decade—more than double the national average, according to the Department of Labor. Postsecondary teachers are usually highly rewarded for their hard work and full repertoires; the average income for these professionals is more than $75,000 annually. That being said, most schools are bringing on more part-time professors to fill their positions, and more professionals are having to compete for tenure to secure their employment and wages. However, even on the low end of these incomes, professionals make upwards of $50,000 each year.
- Post-Secondary Education Administrators – These professionals oversee student services, academics, and faculty research across departments at postsecondary institutions like colleges and universities. Their job can vary depending on the type of department that they work in. There are three primary categories of administrative professionals in higher education: Admissions: Oversee admissions criteria, including how many students can be admitted to a school. They meet with prospective students and review applications to determine acceptance. They prepare promotional and marketing activities for the school. Working in the administrative side of postsecondary education usually requires a master’s degree, although more or less education and experience may be necessary to qualify for various positions within administration. Postsecondary education administrators can look forward to a great payout for the work that they put into their career: on average, administrators make more than $90,000 annually. Higher universities and private institutions tend to pay more than community colleges, and administrators may choose to advance their career overtime by moving through the ranks and gaining additional education. As the demand for educated professionals increases, the demand for administrators in higher education is also expected to increase by 10% in the next few years.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Working in higher education is a unique career that gears towards professionals who are excited about guiding independent adults to becoming productive members of society. Higher education professionals must have the critical thinking skills to perform the research and assessment tasks of their jobs, as well as the computer skills required to maintain records and use classroom technology, and the interpersonal skills to build relationships with colleagues and students. The most successful higher education professionals tend to be resourceful and organized problem solvers. If this sounds like you, and you’re ready to build a career over time doing something that you love, then you might want to consider higher education. Regardless of where you’re at in your life, you can move quickly up the ladder of higher education, or make a transition that slowly accommodates your current lifestyle.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Higher education is one of the more demanding careers in education—but it’s also one of the most rewarding financially and spiritually. One of the great aspects of a career in higher education is that it can be built overtime, at your own pace that suits the goals and lifestyle of each different professional. Some postsecondary teachers will enter the field of teaching by first developing a career in their field of choice (like healthcare or business). They may start their career as a nurse, or as an elementary school teacher, and eventually decide to pass along their skills to the next generation of professionals through higher education. Most often, these teachers will have a PhD in their specialized field. The alternative route for aspiring higher education professionals is to concentrate your educational path on higher education itself. Many higher education professionals can enter the administrative field with a master’s degree, which will prepare them for the administrative work.
Online post-secondary education degree programs are usually offered at the graduate level. Many are geared for professionals who want leadership positions in an academic setting, although some programs are more focused on business and organizational management. You may be interested in a general post-secondary master's degree, but specializing in areas such as adult learning and workforce education, technical training, adult literacy, e-learning, community college leadership, college teaching, or higher education administration may open up your desired career channels.
Post-secondary doctorate degrees—both the PhD and EdD—are also available. These are great programs to explore if your career involves managing a higher education institution or corporate training program. Most educators in these fields are highly educated, so you may need to earn the highest level of credentials possible to stay relevant.
Your degree focus can largely dictate your career, if you so choose. An online higher education degree will train you for leadership in higher education, but it can translate to other fields. If you want to teach at a college or university, you will need at least a master's—but more typically, a doctorate—to secure a professorship. An online post-secondary education degree can also open up research opportunities or instructional gigs at vocational schools, nonprofits, and other organizations. Non-teaching career options include administration at a college or university. For example, if your degree concentrates on student affairs, you could work in university programming or campus life. Government jobs in education regulation and issues are also available.
Finding the right program to suit your needs and goals is important, since developing professionals will often have to work their way through various levels of degree programs. Expect to pay between $40,000 and $60,000 for an online higher education degree program.