M.Ed. in Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education

By integrating a strong theoretical framework with practical application, this Master of Education program trains graduates for success in higher ed leadership positions. This is a full- or part-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only.

The Master of Education in Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education is designed to prepare students for success in entry- and mid-career level professional positions within a variety of post-secondary education contexts. The program emphasizes knowledge of theories that underlie practice, the study of diverse student experiences and development, awareness of the organizational and environmental characteristics of the various types of post-secondary institutions and an understanding of the political and social forces that shape higher education.

Students admitted to the master's program might specialize in general administration, student affairs, or intercollegiate athletic administration, or take a broader approach to explore higher education. Although coursework may vary according students' individual plans, the objectives remain consistent throughout the program.

Theoretical Foundation

  • An integration and application of the theoretical foundations of higher education; this may include sociology, psychology, politics, economics, leadership and organizational theory.

Principles of Practice

  • Coursework that develops and refines core competencies for student affairs, intercollegiate athletic administration or general administration work in colleges and universities and other post-secondary settings.

Reflective Professional Experience

  • Professional internships that lead to successful work in specialized functional areas of higher education; the experience includes development of a professional philosophy and career plan, and introduction to major professional and service organizations.

Program Life

The M.Ed. program in Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education offers both full-time and part-time options, though most students pursue the degree full time. Full-time students complete the program in twelve months, with the program beginning about June 1 each year and concluding by mid-May of the following year. Students who are enrolled part time typically complete the program within two to three years. The M.Ed. is awarded upon completion of 34 credit hours.

“The opportunity to live, learn, and study at a foundational institution of higher education is extremely special. This university offers so many opportunities for personal and professional growth for its students.” -2018 Cohort Graduate

Since this is a one-year, 34-credit hour program you can expect to have a very full and challenging year. Beginning in June, the summer coursework provides a nice entry into the program and an opportunity to get your feet under you as you transition. Fall semester is generally busy as students typically dive into their internships on top of their coursework. In spring semester, the workload shifts a bit as students finish up their coursework and begin the job search.

We often refer to the class of master's students as a cohort—a term that refers to a group that enters the program at the same time and, for the most part, will graduate at the same time. One of the best things about the master's program is the cohort itself—it's a built-in support system, social group, and network. After graduation, cohort members often stay in touch with each other as colleagues.


Students in the master’s program generally choose one of three focus areas.

  • Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education (SAPHE)
  • Intercollegiate Athletic Administration (IAA)
  • Higher Education Administration (HEA)

During the first summer session course, students meet with their advisor to select coursework that will help the student meet their academic and professional goals.

Upcoming Information Sessions

Learn more about our program during one of our virtual information sessions.

View a recording of the October 19th Info Session.

Program Details

  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Higher Education master's program is based on the potential for academic and professional success using the following criteria:

    • Record of academic achievement as evidenced through 3.0 GPA or better for the last two years of undergraduate study.
    • Record of potential for academic achievement as evidenced through one of the following:
      • ​Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores that are no more than 5 years old. For reference, GRE scores for MEd, MT, EdS students admitted for the 2014-15 academic year were at or above the 150 (verbal), 145 (quantitative), and 4.0 (analytical writing); OR
      • For applicants currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at the time of application: SAT or ACT scores AND a recent writing sample; OR
      • For applicants who have graduated from an undergraduate degree program: an interview with program faculty and/or successful completion of courses in the program as a non-degree student prior to admission.
    • Strong writing skills and clear professional goals demonstrated in the Statement of Purpose (typically 500-700 words)
      • In your statement, please address the factors that have encouraged you to seek an M.Ed. from the UVa Higher Education-Student Affairs program.  This is also an opportunity for you to describe your background, significant personal and professional experiences, important aspects of your academic record, and professional and/or further academic goals upon completion of the program.
      • If an additional writing sample is not submitted in lieu of the GRE, the faculty may request a writing sample to round out an application.
    • Excellent academic and professional references via two (2) letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors, and/or professional colleagues.
    • Resume outlining your professional or para-professional experience, leadership roles, experiences in undergraduate organizations, and/or volunteer work
    • Unofficial test scores and transcripts may be submitted with the application. However, official scores and transcripts will be required once an offer of admission is accepted.

    Given the accelerated nature of our one-year program, many of our applicants have professional experience in higher education or a related field.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    Full-time students are only admitted to begin study in the summer.  The deadline for summer admission is December 1.  Admitted students will be invited to attend Internship Interview Day to meet faculty, current students, and members of their prospective cohort group and interview for internship positions.  Applications may be considered until May 1 on a space-available basis; however, prospective applicants should contact us to discuss the late application process.

    Prospective part-time students are encouraged to complete their application for admission using the following deadlines:

    • Summer admission: December 1st for the first review of applications. Applications may be accepted until May 1st on a space-available basis.
    • Fall admission (part-time only): April 15th, applications will be accepted on a space-available basis until July 1st
    • Spring admission (part-time only): November 1st

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

    If you are a current UVA student and hold a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher, you may qualify for direct admission. For more information, please visit: The School of Education and Human Development Direct Admit Graduate Programs webpage.

  • Degree Requirements

    The Higher Education-Student Affairs program is designed for flexibility.  All students are required to take 19 core credits.  The remaining 15 credits will be tailored to meet student academic and professional goals.

    Required Coursework

    The following courses are required of all students (19 credits - 7 courses)

    • EDLF 5810 Introduction to Higher Education
    • EDLF 5830 College Student Experience
    • EDLF 5820 Organization and Management of Colleges & Universities 
    • EDLF 6010 Financial Management & Budgeting in Higher Education
    • EDLF 7610 Research in Higher Education, Student Affairs, & Athletic Administration
    • EDLF 7110 Professional Development Seminar in Higher Education
    • EDLF 7120 Master's Capstone in Higher Education

    All students must take one of the following for a diversity credit (3 credits-1 course)

    • EDLF 7130 College Student Development
    • EDLF 8640 Inequality in Higher Education
    • EDLF 6020 Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Higher Education

    Students should select from the following courses based on their focus interest (12 credits - 4 courses)

    • EDLF 5420 Athletics, the University, and Society
    • EDLF 5425 Governance of Collegiate Athletics
    • EDLF 6030 Student Affairs in Higher Education
    • EDLF 8651 History of Higher Education
    • EDLF 5410 Strategy in Higher Education and Intercollegiate Athletics
    • EDLF 8680 Economics and Education Policy
    • EDLF 7132 Legal Aspects of College Administration
    • EDLF 8662 Politics and Education
    • EDHS 7200 Counseling Student Athletes
    • EDHS 7290 Essential Counseling Skills
    • Additional courses in the School of Education and Human Development are available based on student interest and with consultation of program advisor

    Administrative Internships

    All full-time M.Ed. students are required to complete an administrative internship in a particular area of student affairs, intercollegiate athletics, or general administration. The internship gives students an opportunity to synthesize and apply the theoretical aspects of their area of specialization in practical administrative settings and in turn to enrich, complicate, and complement their theoretical understanding. Additionally, internships permit students to develop competencies required of new professionals in the field. Internship openings vary from year to year; most are paid positions but do not include tuition remission or health insurance.

    Full-time students intern in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, University Virginia Athletics, the Division of Student Affairs, McIntire School of Commerce, Darden School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, Hereford Residential College, and Piedmont Virginia Community College.
    Internship Opportunities

  • Funding Opportunities

    Students may apply for federal financial aid, including work-study. Information about federal aid programs, including applying using the FAFSA, can be found through Student Financial Services. Additional financial aid information can be found on the School of Education and Human Development's Financial Aid webpage. Because some internship sites require students to have work study, we recommend all students indicate they would like to be considered for work study on the FAFSA.

    Currently, the program is unable to provide tuition remission or health insurance to students. However, most internships are paid positions. The University of Virginia offers affordable and convenient options for student health insurance. Visit the Department of Student Health website for more information.

  • Typical Length of Study

    Full-time students complete the program in one calendar year (June - May). Part-time students typically complete the program within two to three years.

    Semester of Entry:

    Full-time students begin the program during Summer Session (early June of each year). Part-time students may begin the program in any semester (summer, fall, spring)

  • Course Overview
    Summer (9 credits) Fall (12-13 credits) Spring (12-13 credits)
    Introduction to Higher Education (3) Financial Management & Budgeting in Higher Education (3) Capstone (3)
    College Student Experience (3) Research in Higher Education, Student Affairs & Intercollegiate Athletics (3) Internship/Professional Development (1)
    Organization and Management of Colleges & Universities (3)  Internship/Professional Development (1) Elective (3)
      Elective (3) Elective (3)
      Elective (3) Elective (3)
  • Sample Jobs After Graduation

    There is no one path for graduates from the Higher Education-Student Affairs program. While many of our graduates choose to stay in the mid-Atlantic area, we have alumni across the US and abroad working in secondary schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, as well as private educational organizations. Here are a few of the positions our alumni hold:

    • Admissions Counselor, Virginia Tech
    • Assistant Director of Harm Reduction and Compliance, University of South Carolina
    • Assistant Director, Princeton University
    • Assistant Field Hockey Coach, Villanova University
    • Community Director, Montana State University
    • Director of Creative Media for Men's Basketball, George Mason University
    • Director of Development, University of Virginia
    • Football Defensive Analyst, University of Virginia
    • Graduate Coordinator, Tufts University
  • Frequently Asked Questions


    1. What is the GRE alternative?
      If you are applying while you are an undergraduate student, you have the option of submitting SAT or ACT scores and a writing sample in lieu of submitting GRE scores.
      If you are not an undergraduate student while applying, you are able to schedule a program interview with faculty members in lieu of submitting GRE scores. Please contact the EDLF Programs Associate, Alicia Cowan-Brown, at adc3y@virginia.edu if you seek to schedule a program interview.
    2. Where should my letters of recommendation come from?
      This is your decision to make. We do like to see one recommendation from a faculty member, particularly if you have remained in contact. Mainly, we like to hear from individuals that know you well, like a supervisor, colleague, or mentor.
    3. When will I receive a decision regarding my application?
      If you apply by the December 1 deadline, you should expect to receive a decision by the end of January. If you apply after the deadline, it typically takes a few weeks to receive a decision.
    4. Is direct admission available for current UVA students?
      Yes, if you are a current UVA student and hold a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher, you may qualify for direct admission. For more information, please go to the Direct Admit Graduate Programs webpage.
    5. How much is tuition?
      The cost of tuition will change every year. Find a list of this year’s tuition and fees.


    1. What is the difference between an internship and an assistantship?
      Our internships pay students directly for the hours worked, as opposed to assistantships, which tend to pay students through tuition remission.
    2. How many hours do students work at their internship?
      We expect students to work 15-20 hours per week at their internship throughout the academic year.
    3. How many internships are available?
      Most of our full-time cohorts include 40 students, so we typically have around 50 internships available for admitted students to apply for.
    4. How do I apply for an internship?
      Once admitted to the program, we will send information regarding Interview Day to able apply for and interview with various offices.


    1. I want to be a full-time student, but I cannot start classes in the summer. Can I start the program in the fall?
      Unfortunately, all full-time students must start the program in the summer. Students may start part-time then switch to full-time status, but there is less flexibility for part-time students due to course sequencing.
    2. How many students will be in my classes?
      You can expect to have around 20 to 30 students in each class. Summer and core courses will have more students enrolled within them, whereas electives will have a small number of students.

    Part-time Status

    1. As a part-time student, should I have an internship?
      No, we do not ask part-time students to have an internship. Most part-time students are full-time employees and therefore cannot add 20 hours to their work schedule.
    2. I am a part-time student and I do not know how classes will fit into my work schedule. When classes are typically offered?
      During the academic year, most classes are offered in 2.5 hour blocks once a week, either from 3:30-6pm or 6:30-9pm. Certain classes are offered during the day, but tend to meet mid-day an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week. Each summer course is three-weeks long that meets 11-2pm or 4-6:30pm.
    3. I am a UVA employee. What kind of funding opportunities are available?
      The School of Education and Human Development education benefits program provides funds to waive application fees and reduce tuition charges to $400 per credit hour for courses taken by salaried, benefits-eligible employees of the University of Virginia, who have been employed at least 90 days while enrolled part-time in graduate degree and non-degree programs during the spring, summer or fall semester, or enrolled in courses for professional development. For more information, visit: the Employee Funding webpage.
    4. I am unsure if this program is right for me. Can I enroll in a class before applying?
      Students may enroll in up to two 3-credit courses as a non-degree seeking/professional learner before applying to the program. If you decide to apply to the program, up to six credits may be transferred in. You can find more information on the Professional Learner webpage.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.