Admissions Counselor Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of becoming an admissions counselor? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming an admissions counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Admissions Counseling Career

Prospective college students talk to admissions counselors to learn more about a school's programs and admissions procedures. Read the pros and cons of an admissions counseling job to see if this is the right career path for you.

Pros of an Admissions Counseling Career
A bachelor's degree may be enough for an entry-level position*
Can move into higher administrative positions with experience and education**
Opportunities can be found at schools of all sizes (from junior colleges to universities) and types (professional schools, private colleges, etc.)*
May enjoy reduced work hours in the summer*

Cons of an Admissions Counseling Career
Some employers require previous experience*
You may often work long hours, including nights and weekends, during peak recruitment periods**
May require extensive travel (overnight, regional or cross-county)**
High-volume work requires multi-tasking and flexibility***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **I Have a Plan Iowa, ***O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Description

Admissions counselors recruit students for enrollment at colleges and universities. They plan and attend recruiting events on campus or at high schools, community colleges and other locations. Often, admissions counselors have designated recruiting territories that might encompass the local area, the state or a region of the country; they may also be assigned to target certain groups for recruitment, such as transfers, non-residents, gifted students or those interested in specific academic programs. Admissions counselors spend a great deal of time communicating with prospective students and their parents, explaining admissions procedures and answering questions about academic programs.

In addition to recruiting, admissions counselors may have a variety of other duties. They may create promotional materials, analyze enrollment data, make admissions decisions or provide academic advising. The scope of the job usually depends on the size of the academic institution, with counselors at smaller schools also performing duties for various departments, such as financial aid, records and registration, student affairs and more; larger schools typically don't require that you perform functions for other departments.

Salary Information

Salary figures from PayScale.com showed that 80% of admissions counselors earned approximately $27,131-$46,899 per year as of December 2014. These figures include base salaries and bonuses. With work experience, an admissions counselor might advance to an administrative position with more responsibility and a higher salary, such as a position as a registrar or academic dean. However, this may also require earning an advanced degree.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that postsecondary education administrators, a group that includes admissions counselors, could expect a 15% projected increase in employment for the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). The demand for admissions counselors and other education administrators was expected to be spurred by the influx of new and returning college students. However, jobs at public learning institutions may be limited due to fluctuations in state and local government education budgets.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education

A bachelor's degree is often the minimum education requirement for a position in a college or university admissions office; however, employers may prefer to hire applicants with a master's degree, as well as some experience in admissions, recruitment, sales, marketing, customer service or another related field. Employers also look for people with enthusiasm for and knowledge of the education system. As an admissions counselor, you would need to learn about higher education and develop an in-depth understanding of the policies and procedures of your employing institution, including academic program offerings, tuition rates, admissions policies and financial aid programs.

Career Skills

Admissions counselors should be adept at working with all kinds of people, ranging from students and families to members of other university departments and contacts at other schools. You need to be a people-person to work in admissions, and you should be culturally sensitive since you'll need to interact comfortably with diverse groups of people. You also need excellent communication skills for all of the speaking, writing and listening you'll do on a daily basis, from giving presentations to meeting one-on-one with students. Since you'll manage so many projects at once, you must be detail-oriented, organized and focused on solving problems quickly - often in the midst of traveling or planning several recruiting events.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers generally want admissions counselors with excellent computer skills, including the ability to use social media for recruiting purposes. Many schools use web-based technologies for admissions applications and student records, so employers are looking for prospective admissions counselors who are comfortable working with various software programs, such as Microsoft Office, Banner and PeopleSoft. Here are some real college and university job postings from May 2012:

  • A public university in Wisconsin wanted an admissions assistant director to plan recruiting events specifically aimed at prospective transfer students. This job posting listed a master's degree as a preferred qualification, but a bachelor's degree and transfer admissions experience were required.
  • An Idaho university needed an assistant director of admissions to recruit students from an assigned geographic area through college fairs, campus tours, high school visits and other events. Additionally, the assistant director would analyze enrollment data to come up with targeted recruiting strategies, as well as provide academic advising. A bachelor's degree and valid driver's license were required.
  • A private university in San Francisco, CA, advertised for an admissions counselor to review student applications, including evaluating and approving transfer credits. The position required a bachelor's degree, three years of experience in evaluating transfer credit, three years of related work experience an one year of public speaking experience. The employer preferred candidates who had master's degrees.
  • An Oregon community college sought a manager to oversee the admissions, registration and records department. In addition to recruiting, the manager was to be responsible for student progress and retention programs and enrollment analysis. A bachelor's degree, five years of related work experience and two years of supervisory experience were required.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Earn an Advanced Degree

To advance beyond an entry-level admissions position and set yourself apart from other applicants, you could consider pursuing an advanced degree. In fact, O*Net OnLine reported that 55% of postsecondary education administrators held master's degrees in 2011, while 22% held doctoral degrees (www.onetonline.org). This is a good indication that education beyond a bachelor's degree can help you move ahead in this field. The BLS indicates that earning a graduate degree is usually required to move into higher level positions in education administration. You could consider programs in education administration, school counseling, student affairs, student services and other related disciplines. These degree programs give students a solid foundation in higher education concepts, leadership skills, administration duties and research methods, and they usually include a student services practicum component.

Join Professional Organizations

Although it does not offer professional certifications, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) provides networking opportunities with other admissions professionals (www.nacacnet.org). Membership can help you stay up-to-date on technological innovations relevant to the industry and give you access to a variety of Internet resources. Another option would be the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), which offers similar professional development and networking opportunities (www.aacrao.org).

Other Careers to Consider

Human Resources Specialist

If you want to put your communication and people skills to use for recruiting but want to work with different kinds of people, you might want to consider a career as a human resources specialist. Human resources specialists help businesses interview, hire and train new employees, often through recruiting activities, such as job fairs. You can specialize in one area of human resources, such as recruiting or labor relations, or you may become a human resources generalist and cover various tasks, such as personnel management, payroll and benefits administration. Generally, human resources specialists need to have a bachelor's degree in business administration, human resources or a related area.

The BLS projected that an employment growth of 21% would occur for human resources specialists between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average. On average, human resources specialists earned around $59,000 per year in 2011, according to the BLS. With additional work experience, you may be able to take on a supervisory role as a human resources manager, a title which carries additional responsibilities. These managers earned just under $109,000 in 2011.

School Counselor

If you want to work in an academic setting but want to help kids with a broader age range than college-bound students, you could think about becoming a school counselor. Whether they work in elementary, middle or high schools, school counselors help students work through personal and academic struggles so they can perform well in the classroom and develop plans for the future. The BLS states that you'll need a master's degree in school counseling or a related field for this career, and you'll also need to become licensed or certified by the state in which you work. Rising student enrollment numbers drive the need for additional school counselors, with a 19% employment growth predicted for the 2010-2020 decade. In 2011, the BLS reported that the average yearly salary for school counselors was nearly $57,000.

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
  • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

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Concordia University Portland

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  • M.S. - Educational Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Educational Technology Leadership

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership

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Penn Foster High School

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