Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the department in which they work, such as admissions, student affairs, or the registrar’s office.

Duties

Education administrators’ duties depend on the size of their college or university. Small schools often have small staffs that take on many different responsibilities, but larger schools may have different offices for each of these functions. For example, at a small college, the Office of Student Life may oversee student athletics and other activities, whereas a large university may have an Athletics Department.

Postsecondary education administrators who work in admissions decide which applicants should be admitted to the school. They typically do the following:

  • Determine how many students to admit to the school
  • Meet with prospective students and encourage them to apply
  • Review applications to determine which students should be admitted
  • Analyze data about applicants and admitted students

Admissions officers also prepare promotional materials about the school. They often are assigned a region of the country to which they travel and speak to high school counselors and students.

Admissions officers who work with the financial aid department offer packages of federal and institutional financial aid to prospective students.

Postsecondary education administrators may be provosts or academic deans. Provosts, also called chief academic officers, help college presidents develop academic policies, participate in making faculty appointments and tenure decisions, and manage budgets. They also oversee faculty research at colleges and universities. Academic deans coordinate the activities of the individual colleges or schools. For example, a large university may have a separate dean for business, law, and medical schools.

Postsecondary education administrators who work in the registrar’s office, sometimes called registrars, maintain student and course records. They typically do the following:

  • Schedule course offerings, including space and times for classes
  • Oversee student registration for classes
  • Ensure that students meet graduation requirements
  • Plan commencement ceremonies
  • Prepare transcripts and diplomas for students
  • Produce data about students and classes
  • Maintain the academic records of the institution

Registrars’ duties vary throughout the school year. During registration and at the beginning of the academic term, for example, they help students sign up for, drop, and add courses. Registrars need computer skills to create and maintain databases.

Postsecondary education administrators who work in student affairs are responsible for a variety of cocurricular school functions. They typically do the following:

  • Advise students on topics such as housing, personal problems, or academics
  • Communicate with parents or guardians
  • Create, support, and assess nonacademic programs for students
  • Schedule programs and services, such as athletic events or recreational activities

Postsecondary education administrators in student affairs may specialize in areas such as student activities, housing and residential life, or multicultural affairs. In student activities, they plan events and advise student clubs and organizations. In housing and residential life, they assign students to rooms and match them with roommates, ensure that residential facilities are well maintained, and train residential advisers. In multicultural affairs, they plan events to celebrate different cultures and diverse backgrounds. Sometimes, they manage multicultural centers on campus.

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Work Environment

Postsecondary education administrators held about 192,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of postsecondary education administrators were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                 79%
Junior colleges; state, local, and private 13

Work Schedules

Postsecondary education administrators generally work full time. Most work year-round, but some administrators may reduce their hours during the summer.

Education and Training

Postsecondary education administrators typically need a master’s degree. However, there will be some opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree. Employers typically prefer candidates who have experience working in a postsecondary academic administrative office, particularly for occupations such as registrars and academic deans.

Education

Postsecondary education administrators typically need a master’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for positions at small colleges and universities. Degrees can be in a variety of disciplines, such as social work, accounting, or marketing.

Provosts and deans often must have a Ph.D. Some begin their careers as professors and later move into administration. They have a doctorate in the field in which they taught or in higher education.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Employers typically prefer to hire candidates who have several years of experience in a college administrative setting. Some postsecondary education administrators work in the registrar’s office or as a resident assistant while in college to gain the necessary experience. For other positions, such as those in admissions and student affairs, experience may not be necessary.

Advancement

Education administrators with advanced degrees may be promoted to higher level positions within their department or the college. Some become college presidents, an occupation discussed in the profile on top executives.

Personality and Interests

Postsecondary education administrators typically have an interest in the Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a postsecondary education administrator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Postsecondary education administrators should also possess the following specific qualities:

Computer skills. Registrars often need to be adept at working with computers so they can create and maintain databases and computer programs to manage student and school records.

Interpersonal skills. Postsecondary education administrators need to build good relationships with colleagues, students, and parents. Those in admissions and student affairs need to be outgoing so they can encourage prospective students to apply to the school and existing students to participate in co-curricular activities.

Organizational skills. Regardless of their field, administrators need to be organized so they can manage records, prioritize tasks, and coordinate the activities of their staff.

Problem-solving skills. Administrators often need to respond to difficult situations, develop creative solutions to problems, and react calmly when problems arise.

Pay

The median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators was $95,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $194,090.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for postsecondary education administrators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                     $97,250
Junior colleges; state, local, and private 90,670

As part of their employee benefits plan, many colleges and universities allow full-time employees to attend classes at a discount or for free.

Postsecondary education administrators generally work full time. Most work year-round, but some schools may reduce their hours during the summer.

Job Outlook

Employment of postsecondary education administrators is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected because of increasing student enrollment in colleges and universities.

People will continue to seek postsecondary education to accomplish their career goals. As more people enter colleges and universities, more postsecondary education administrators will be needed to serve the needs of these additional students.

Additional admissions officers will be needed to process students’ applications. More registrars will be needed to direct student registration for classes and ensure that they meet graduation requirements. More student affairs workers will be needed to make housing assignments and plan events for students.

Provosts and academic dean positions will be limited, since there is typically a set number of these positions per institution.

Despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth in public colleges and universities will depend on state and local government budgets. If there is a budget deficit, postsecondary institutions may lay off employees, including administrators. If there is a budget surplus, postsecondary institutions may hire more employees.

Job Prospects

Job prospects will be better for candidates who have experience working in higher education.

For More Information

For more information about registrars or admissions counselors, visit

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

For more information about education administrators specializing in student affairs, visit

NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

 

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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