Higher Education Career Paths Inside and Outside the Classroom

When it comes to choosing your higher education career path, it's all about finding the best fit for your interests and goals. Like most fields, higher education is exceedingly diverse and caters to a range of professionals with varying levels of education and expertise.

“The qualifications and requirements are quite different for administrators and professors – as well as in research institutions and teaching institutions,” acknowledges Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.), assistant dean of the NCU's School of Education. “The best advice I can give is to take the time to reflect on what type of higher education professional you want to be. Then research the minimum qualifications.”

We've compiled some common higher education career paths to highlight the versatility of a higher education career, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you are a teacher with dean-sized dreams, want to transition into academia, or feel like you'd be a good fit for a position in research or administration, higher education provides plenty of career options.


Teaching As the cornerstone of the education field, teaching is often the go-to path for many higher education professionals. It includes numerous options based on your level of education and teaching experience.

In some cases, a master's degree may qualify you to teach at a community college or as an adjunct for multiple schools, both face-to-face and online. At the doctoral level, you may find opportunities at a 4-year public or private college, or depending on where you earned your degree, on the tenure track at a research university.