The Pros and Cons of Being a Director of Admissions
A director of admissions oversees student recruitment and admissions at a college, university or community college. Read the following pros and cons to decide if a career as a director of admissions is right for you.
|Pros of Being a Director of Admissions|
|Pays well ($88,111 median salary as of August 2015)*|
|Job prospects are improving (enrollment is up and current administrators are retiring)**|
|Variety of responsibilities (review applications, interview students, travel, give presentations, supervise staff)**|
|Some schools have relaxed hours during summer**|
|Cons of Being a Director of Admissions|
|Job security (governments can cut funding for state universities, which leads to layoffs)**|
|May have to turn down high school applicants to your school**|
|Educational and experience requirements (Many admissions directors have around 10 years of experience and a master's degree)*|
|Frequent travel is common to promote university and meet with prospective students**|
Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
Deciding which students get admitted to a college or university is the primary responsibility of a director of admissions, but it is far from the only one. An admissions director essentially functions as a school's chief marketer and salesperson and must be knowledgeable not only about the latest recruitment strategies, but also about admissions policies regarding credit transfers and international student enrollment.
As a director, you work closely with upper-level administrators, such as the dean of the school or president of the university, to set enrollment goals and ensure they are met. You may research target markets, develop and execute a marketing plan, travel nationally and internationally to promote the college and meet one-on-one with prospective students. You could also oversee a staff that includes assistant and associate directors and admissions counselors.
Career Prospects and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 15% job growth for postsecondary education administrators from 2012-2022. Enrollment in postsecondary institutions - especially online colleges and universities - is expected to increase as more people seek to further their educations and careers, which will mean a greater need for admissions directors. In August 2015, Salary.com reported a median annual salary for chief admissions officers of about $88,000. The lowest 10% of admissions officers made $55,313 or less, and the highest 10% made 135,727 or more.
What Are the Requirements?
A bachelor's degree is a requirement for admissions directors; however, most have a master's degree in an area like higher education administration. Training to become a director of admissions can start at the undergraduate level with a job as a student assistant in the admissions office. Upon graduating, or while getting your master's degree, you can work as a graduate student assistant and eventually as an admissions officer, assistant director or director.
Because admissions directors work closely with college administrators and students, strong communication skills are important. You should also be comfortable in a leadership role - many directors delegate tasks to other admissions staff members. It's vital to have a good understanding of computers and a knack for solving problems as well.
What Are Employers Looking For?
The postsecondary institutions that employ admissions directors look primarily at experience in the field and education level. Other qualities employers look for include marketing abilities, attention to detail and exceptional public speaking skills. The following job postings were for positions open during May 2012:
- A Jesuit university in California is seeking a director of admissions for its school of education. The ideal candidate will have a master's degree and 5-7 years of progressively responsible experience in admissions.
- A technical college in Vermont is looking for a director of admissions who has a master's degree, at least five years of experience, in-depth knowledge of admissions practices and the ability to travel.
- A private liberal arts college in Western Illinois is searching for a director of admissions. Preferred qualifications include a master's degree, six or more years of college admissions experience and knowledge of how to develop relationships through new media and other creative approaches.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
As technology becomes more of a factor in college and university admissions, directors must keep their skills and knowledge up to date to attract the best and brightest students. As a director of admissions, you should be familiar with social media tools for recruitment and admission. You also need to know the best ways to promote your school through both online and mobile channels. You may want to gain experience working in admissions for an online college or university, as those institutions represent a growth area in education.
You can also stand out from the crowd by joining a professional organization, like the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). Membership benefits may include access to trade publications, conferences, professional development opportunities and job boards.
Other Careers to Consider
Admissions Coordinator - Nursing Home
If you like this line of work but aren't interested in postsecondary administration, consider coordinating admissions in a medical setting, such as a nursing home. These types of positions typically require experience in health care. You may work with local referral sources to locate potential residents, meet with them to assess their needs and show them around the facility. You'll need a bachelor's degree and familiarity with insurance documentation, admission standards and state regulations. In May 2012, Salary.com listed a median salary of about $42,000 for nursing home admissions coordinators.
If you'd rather pursue a higher-level administrative position in academia and don't mind earning a Ph.D. or accruing additional years of experience, you could become an academic dean. Deans serve as the heads of individual schools or programs, like a school of business or a continuing education program. They oversee curricula and enrollment and evaluate faculty. Salary.com indicates that the median base salary for a dean of arts and sciences was $138,000 as of May 2012.
Public Relations Manager
If you enjoy the promotional aspects of being an admissions director and serving as the face of your organization, you could become a public relations (PR) manager. PR managers work to enhance their organization's image by writing press releases and speeches, crafting ad campaigns and communicating with members of the media and general public. A bachelor's degree and several years of experience are sufficient for most positions, and according to the BLS, employment of PR managers and specialists is expected to grow 21% from 2010-2020. The BLS indicated a median annual salary of $93,000 for PR managers as of May 2011.