Careers in Higher Education Administration
Higher education administration is a field that encompasses a number of postsecondary administration positions. According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there should be faster than average job growth in this field from 2014-2024 due to an increase in student enrollment. Local government budget deficits could result in job losses in certain locations, however. In May 2015, the BLS reported an median annual income of $88,580 for education administrators.
A few careers to consider in higher education management include admissions administrator, registrar or academic dean. Here are those careers at a glance:
|Admissions Administrator||Registrar||Academic Dean|
|Career Overview||Admissions administrators promote a college or university as well as select, recruit and enroll students.||Registrars are in charge of course enrollment, student records, graduation requirements and commencement ceremonies.||Academic deans oversee various departments or schools within a university and typically report to a provost or president.|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree||Master's or doctoral degree (with exceptions)||Doctorate (with exceptions)|
|Program Length||4 years for a bachelor's, 1-2 years for a master's, 3-4 years after the master's for a Ph.D.||1-2 years for a master's, 3-4 years after the master's for a Ph.D.||3-4 years after the master's|
|Experience Required||2-8 years of experience in postsecondary education is typically required||2-8 years of experience in postsecondary education is typically required||Varies, but usually around 8 years of experience|
|Job Outlook for 2014-2024||Faster than average (9%) compared to all occupations*||Approximately 15,200 additional jobs expected (9% increase) *||Slightly above average growth of 9% compared to 7% for all occupations*|
|Median Salary (2016)||About $89,000**||About $77,000**||About $93,000**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com
A postsecondary admissions administrator is usually in charge of choosing, recruiting and enrolling prospective students in a college, junior college, technical school or university. In some cases, you'll be required to travel to certain regions of the country to talk to students and guidance counselors, as well as participate in recruiting seminars and other functions. In many positions, you'll work directly with the financial aid department to help prospective students determine financial need and arrange payment for their education. To process hundreds or even thousands of applications, you'll usually manage a staff of admissions counselors and sometimes an assistant administrator.
Although at least a master's degree in higher education administration or a related field is commonly required, you can apply for certain jobs with a bachelor's degree. Other potential degrees to consider include, but aren't limited to, human resources, business management and database management. Potential employers often consider years of work experience as important as they do education.
Employers posted the following jobs in September 2012:
- A law school in Massachusetts was seeking an admissions and financial aid administrator with at least four years of experience. The position entailed overseeing a staff processing more than 1,700 admissions and aid applications.
- A public liberal arts college in New York City was seeking an admissions director to develop and enhance recruitment strategies. The college was looking for applicants with at least eight years of experience.
- A medical school in Tennessee sought an admissions director with at least two years of experience and a bachelor's degree to oversee its admissions process and image. The potential director would manage the budget and supervise a support staff.
Staying abreast of office technology and maintaining strong computer literacy skills can be a solid way to stand out in this job market. A mastery of software like Excel and Microsoft Word, as well as various operating systems, such as Windows, OS X and Linux, can be useful. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) offers a professional development program featuring webinars and courses in web-based software, cloud computing, social networking and other technologies you may find helpful in this position.
As a registrar, you'll be in charge of institutional record keeping, finance and budgets, compliance with state and federal regulations, student course enrollment and more. You'll commonly supervise a staff and be in constant communication with academic deans, the provost and various other administrators. Your job duties will typically vary at different points in the school year. For example, at the beginning of the year, you might help students through the enrollment process and with class registration, while planning graduation and getting transcripts ready will be more of a focus later on.
A minimum of a master's degree and several years of experience working in higher education are necessary to be considered for most registrar positions. You could also consider earning a graduate or post-master's certificate in higher education administration. This can be added to a terminal master's degree or help set you up to enroll in a doctorate program. Some of these programs offer case studies, on-site visits to college administrative offices and research papers that can help you gain experience in the field.
In September 2012, the following employers were looking for registrars:
- A university in North Carolina posted a job listing for a registrar who would lead a staff of seven in providing high quality academic and student services. A minimum of eight years of experience was required, and although a candidate with a bachelor's degree would be considered, a master's degree was preferred.
- The human resources department of a Texas university was seeking a registrar with solid problem solving, critical thinking, management and organizational skills. Mastery of Oracle's PeopleSoft Human Capital Management software was considered a valuable skill.
- A university medical center in Chicago, IL, was seeking an individual to direct the Office of the Registrar. In addition to typical staff leadership duties, candidates were required to be skilled statisticians who could work with student information using EPIC databases and LEAP Online.
Advanced computer skills and knowledge of database management are often mandatory for this position. When seeking a position as a registrar, you might want to acquire additional skills in these areas through courses or by attending the AACRAO Technology Conference. At this conference, student affairs are discussed from a variety of managerial and technological perspectives.
In addition to this, although having worked in a postsecondary academic environment is often a job requirement, you can also stand out by having previous management experience. This experience doesn't necessarily have to be in academia to offer a solid boost to your resume.
As an academic dean, you'll typically hold authority over a specific academic department, school or other division of a college or university. Although the duties of an academic dean can vary from university to university, you'll often be in charge of hiring professors and other faculty, budgetary concerns and curriculum. As a dean, it's unlikely that you'll teach or conduct research; rather, you'll make decisions involving faculty, tenure, resource allocation and policies that affect academics. In some situations, a dean acts as a senior administrator or provost, while in others, a dean reports to a provost. Your duties are likely to vary depending on whether you're working at a large or small university.
In most cases, you'll need to earn a doctorate to become an academic dean. Deans can hold degrees in a variety of subjects besides higher education administration. For example, some positions mandate that you hold a doctoral degree in one of the disciplines that you would be supervising as dean. It isn't uncommon for academic deans to begin their careers as professors or researchers at a university.
Employers advertised for the following academic dean positions in September 2012:
- A liberal arts and education school at a college in New York sought a dean who would oversee finances and academics for a variety of departments, including religious studies, psychology and mass communications. The dean would report to the provost and the senior vice president of the college.
- A South Dakota university's law school was hiring a dean who would represent the school to federal, state and local judicial systems, local businesses and the state bar. Aside from having administrative skills, applicants were required to be licensed to practice law in at least one state.
- A California university was seeking a dean for its management school. This position would involve reporting to a provost along with deans from two other schools within the university.
Potential employers of academic deans look for applicants with strong management, leadership and communication skills, in addition to work experience. To stand out among other applicants, you might consider serving as a department chair before pursuing a dean position. Working as a department chair can provide you with opportunities to hone these skills and acquire additional training in budget creation, interpersonal relationships and accountability. Aspiring academic deans also can stand out by taking courses or participating in workshops offering training in faculty hiring and fiscal management.