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Master of Education in Higher Education in Student Affairs

Consider a career in student affairs administration, a profession that supports college students and promotes learning outside of the classroom.


Program Overview

The masters of education in higher education in student affairs (HESA) at Salem State University is the only program of its kind offered at a public institution in the Boston metropolitan area. The program is designed for people who plan to pursue a career working in a college/university setting in the area of student affairs, a profession focused on promoting college student success and learning outside of the classroom. HESA graduates work in a variety of student affairs administrative areas, including admissions, financial aid, academic advising, multicultural affairs, residence life, student activities and more.

HESA is a cohort-based program. Students move through the 36-credit curriculum with a group of peers, fostering a strong graduate community, collaborative learning, and professional networking. Most HESA students are enrolled full-time (6-9 credits a semester) and complete the program in two years, including summer coursework. HESA applicants can choose from two cohorts:

  • The General Cohort requires students to attend up to three evening classes per week on campus. The majority of the courses are offered in the traditional classroom format with a few hybrid/online courses.
  • The Executive Cohort is offered in an online/hybrid format. Students take a mix of online courses and hybrid seminars that meet on campus five times a semester (on specified Saturdays). The Executive cohort is ideal for individuals who work full-time in higher education as well as professionals seeking a career change.

The General and Executive cohort curricula are identical; the method of instruction is the only difference.

General versus Executive Cohort

  • Evening classes on campus 2-3 nights per week
  • One week winter institute course (Monday-Friday, 9 am-4 pm)
  • Hybrid and online elective options
  • Online/hybrid classes with five Saturday in-class meetings per semester.
  • Two one-week summer institutes (Monday-Friday, 9 am-4 pm)
  • Hybrid and online elective options

Elective courses can be taken in any semester. Common elective options include:

  • Current issues in student affairs
  • Applied leadership in higher education
  • LGBT issues in higher education
  • Issues and trends in international student affairs

The HESA curriculum requires one practica and encourages students to consider taking a second practicum to fulfill one of the three required electives. Each practicum includes 135 hours of supervised fieldwork in a student affairs organizational setting. HESA faculty provides students with assistance locating practicum opportunities. The focus of practica is the integration of theory and practice. Practica can be completed at Salem State University or at another institution with permission of the program coordinator. Recent practicum placements include:

  • Bentley University
  • Emmanuel College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • North Shore Community College
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Massachusetts Boston

The culminating experience in the HESA program is a professional e-portfolio. Students work through the graduate program to develop and document their achievement of 10 professional competency areas articulated by ACPA and NASPA, two national student affairs organizations. The professional competencies addressed in the HESA curriculum include:

  • Advising and supporting
  • Social justice and inclusion
  • Student learning and development
  • Leadership
  • Values, philosophy, and history
  • Assessment, evaluation, and research
  • Organization and human resources
  • Law, practice, and governance
  • Personal and ethical foundations
  • Technology

Program Highlights

  • Scholar practitioner faculty: You will learn from faculty with deep experience as full-time higher education administrators, bringing real-world experience to the classroom.
  • A focus on professional development: The HESA curriculum is framed by the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators (2015), ensuring that HESA graduates possess the knowledge, skills and commitments essential for professional success.
  • Commitment to diversity and social justice: Advocacy and support for diverse populations are emphasized across the curriculum.

Graduate Assistantship Opportunities

Many HESA students secure graduate assistantships on campus or at one of the dozens of higher education institutions in the greater Boston area. For more information on HESA graduate assistantships, please visit the HESA application page.



Learning how to apply theory to practice and developing skills and competencies that relate directly to your career are key objectives of our curriculum. The M.Ed. in Higher Education in Student Affairs is a 36 credit program, including nine core courses, three electives, and one required practicum. The culminating experience for the HESA program is a professional e-portfolio that allows students to reflect on and demonstrate their achievement of the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators (2015).



HESA courses are taught by a mix of full-time faculty and current student affairs professionals. All of our faculty are scholar-practitioners, bringing extensive student affairs professional experiences to the classroom. You will learn from professionals holding senior administrative positions within admissions, graduate education, retention and student success, and residence life among others. Additionally, HESA faculty are actively engaged in regional and national student affairs organizations, providing HESA students with wonderful networking and professional development opportunities.

Our faculty are also active scholars, conducting original research on a number of contemporary higher education topics, including: accessibility of higher education, retention of students of color, student leadership development, higher education leadership, student affairs administration, and how marginalized identities impact educational opportunity and academic achievement in secondary and higher education

Best of all, our faculty are invested in you. They are committed to teaching the concepts necessary to be an effective student affairs educator, fostering discussion among our diverse cohorts of students, and improving higher education.



Our graduates work primarily on college campuses in areas like residence life, student activities, multicultural affairs, judicial affairs, admissions, financial aid, academic and personal advisement, international student services, career services, and more. However, you do not have to work on a college campus, as some graduates choose to work in organizations with links to higher education, for example, a non-profit college access organization. Regardless of their career aspirations, our graduates secure jobs and advance professionally as evidenced by our high placement rate for recent graduates.

An essential element of career development is networking. Faculty strongly encourage HESA students to participate in professional organizations through membership, attending conferences and volunteer opportunities. A number of HESA alumni have gone on to assume leadership roles in regional and national student affairs organizations, including ACPA: College Student Educators International, NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education, and the Boston Area College  Housing Association. 

Finally, those HESA alumni interested in pursuing a doctoral degree have been quite successful in their doctoral studies. HESA has a collaboration agreement with the doctoral program in Higher Education Administration at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Our students can take elective courses in the UMass Boston doctoral program and hear about the application process from the program's director. This relationship supports our graduates who want to continue their education.

Admissions Information

Have Questions?

Whether you want to learn more about courses, faculty members or general program information, get in touch with the graduate program coordinator to see what this program has to offer you!

Ready to Apply?

Your future is waiting. Take the next step by learning about program-specific admissions requirements and applying today!

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