Pros and Cons in a Student Finance Career
A student finance advisor is a professional that helps students understand the finances needed to attend college. Check out these pros and cons to learn more about this career.
|Pros of Being a Student Financial Advisor|
|Help a student attend college*|
|Comfortable office environment**|
|Social relationships with students or families**|
|Cons of Being a Student Financial Advisor|
|Requires the minimum of a bachelor's degree*|
|Time sensitive because of admission deadlines**|
|Must be ready to reject aid requests of students and families**|
|Average annual salary is low ($36,000)***|
Sources: *Salary.com, **O*NET OnLine, ***Payscale.com
Essential Career Information
A student financial advisor helps students receive federal financial aid to attend college. In this position, you work as a customer-service professional for a particular school and communicate with students and their families the status of their financial aid. Most of your time is spent communicating, via e-mail or by phone.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, as a financial advisor, you will confirm with your college that a student is eligible for federal aid when you analyze and assess the student's financial records and federal requirements. This is done in relation to the college's tuition, which will vary by school. During a student's enrollment, you may periodically check the student's academics, making sure they meet academic requirements to receive aid (www.fsa4counselors.ed.gov).
Salary Information and Career Outlook
In July 2015, Payscale.com reported that most financial aid counselors were earning between $28,000 and $47,000 annually, including bonuses. Pay may vary slightly due to factors like experience or the type of organization you work for. The most recent data available from Payscale.com indicated that financial aid counselors who worked in educational organizations outside of colleges or universities earned more. O*Net Online reports that employment opportunities for loan counselors, the field that encompasses financial aid advisors, were expected to increase 15%-21% from 2012-2022.
Career Skills and Requirements
According to Salary.com, financial advisors may be required to hold a bachelor degree. While there isn't a degree program specific to this career, you should consider programs in business, counseling or a related major. To be effective at this job, you will need both personal and interpersonal skills. Because you are not heavily supervised, critical thinking and decision making skills are essential. A good portion of your job is spent talking with students and their family members about their financial aid application process. Therefore, good communication skills are a must.
What Employers Look For
Employers typically want individuals with a bachelor's degree and the ability to demonstrate knowledge in financial aid and admissions. The following real job postings were listed in May 2012:
- A Michigan career school needs a financial aid advisor to help students attain financial aid. The position prefers a candidate with a bachelor's degree and bookkeeping or accounting experience. The candidate must have good customer relations skills and be able to communicate with diverse populations of people.
- A Kansas City career service company needs a student loan representative who can provide students with strategic insight on financial aid. This position will review financial aid forms, track documents and monitor students' payments toward the loans, which may include creating budget worksheets for students. A bachelor's degree is preferred, but not required.
- A Tennessee education group needs a student financial aid advisor to help students complete their financial aid packages. The professional needs a bachelor's degree and critical thinking skills to help evaluate student financial issues.
How to Maximize Your Skills
The Department of Education may alter financial aid at any time. Hence, reviewing and keeping up with all federal laws and regulations concerning student financial aid is important. The laws may change over time, and eligibility is determined by the federal government. At the same time, you need to know the regulations of the state you work in and the financial aid rules of your college. According to the Department of Education, many states may provide special programs to substitute or supplement financial aid funding. Being cognizant and up-to-date with these matters helps your provide the best service to students and their families.
In addition to keeping up with regulatory changes, you should also keep up with changes that effect your day-to-day operations. O*Net Online indicates that counselors need to be knowledgeable about database systems and spreadsheet software. You may also seek ways to improve your customer service skills.
Other Careers to Consider
Guidance or Career Counselor
If you want to work with students but don't want to deal with finances, you may consider becoming a guidance or career counselor. Guidance counselors help students assess their future career plans, including what degree program will lead to their desired career. Many guidance counselors are employed by colleges to help point students toward the appropriate job or job sector based upon their experiences and interests. To enter this career field, you may need a master's degree. In May 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for these professionals was about $54,000. The BLS indicates that employment opportunities for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors were expected to increase 19% from 2010-2020.
Personal Financial Advisor
Another career to consider is that of a personal financial advisor. These professionals work with individual clients on matters ranging from insurance to taxes. Some clients use financial analysts to help with future college investments for their children. Personal financial advisors typically need a bachelor's degree in finance or business for their occupation. In May 2011, the BLS stated that there will be a growth rate of 32% from 2010-2020 for personal financial advisors. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $67,000 a year.