Best Jobs in Higher Education Administration
Career Options in Higher Education to Consider
Have you considered working on a college campus? Jobs in higher education administration have much to offer, and there are many different types of positions available. Most campuses offer a picturesque park-like atmosphere with attractive architecture and lots of green space. College campuses are also cultural and recreational centers with theater and the arts, as well as fitness centers and athletic teams.
Many colleges offer campus-based childcare facilities to support workers with families. Colleges typically offer generous benefit packages including healthcare, retirement plans, tuition waiver or assistance, liberal vacation and sick time, and disability coverage.
Entry-level jobs in higher education administration typically require a bachelor’s degree, while senior positions often require a master’s degree or Ph.D.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of postsecondary education administrators is projected to grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
Jobs in Higher Education Administration
Here are some career categories that offer opportunities to have a productive career in higher education, with an overview of the jobs and the average salary for each department.
1. Academic Advising
Academic advising staff counsels students about course selection, academic majors, strategies for resolving academic problems, note taking, test taking, and relationships with faculty.
- Manage and assist in the planning, implementation, assessment, and improvement of the department's programs and services.
- Coordinate group advising sessions for continuing students and at new student orientations.
- Analyze retention information and develop programs to enhance retention.
- Advise athletes on academic progress requirements and assist international students.
Jobs: Academic advisor, academic coach, student support coordinator, assistant director, associate director, director, student success coach, and pre-law advisor.
Salary: Salaries in the academic advising office ranged from $45,702 for an academic advisor to $96,679 for a chief academic advising officer, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey conducted by The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) and reported by HigherEdJobs.
2. Admissions/Enrollment Management
The admissions department orchestrates the recruitment of students to the college.
- Conduct tours, organize and staff admissions events.
- Interview candidates, read and evaluate applications, and compile statistics.
- Develop recruitment strategies to land the right students, train and supervise staff, and develop digital and paper materials promoting the institution.
Jobs: Job titles range from admissions counselor/representative and assistant director at the entry-level, to associate director, director, and vice president at more senior levels.
Salary: Average salaries in admissions ranged from $40,334 for admissions counselors to $209,415 for chief enrollment officers, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
The development office orchestrates the fundraising efforts of a college.
- Cultivate relationships with alumni, parents, corporate sponsors, and other philanthropists. Assess the interests of fundraising targets and communicate information about related college programs and initiatives.
- Collect and analyze career and financial information about potential donors to prioritize outreach efforts.
- Feed stories of alumni to communications staff to incorporate their accomplishments with college publications.
- Develop fundraising strategies and provide input to upper administration about donor priorities for institutional goals.
Jobs: Director of advancement, leadership gift officer, director of annual giving, campaign manager, associate director of advancement, donor relations coordinator, director of advancement services, prospect researcher, planned giving officer, and development assistant.
Salary: Salaries in advancement ranged from $51,672 for a sports information officer, $55,692 for an editor and $124,799 for a chief marketing administrator, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
4. Business and Financial Services
Offices within business and financial services oversee the business functions of the college, set policies regarding financial transactions, maintain financial records, and ensure compliance with financial regulations.
- Identify preferred vendors for goods and services and negotiate contracts.
- Prepare for audits and respond to findings.
- Generate reports and maintain systems so that departments at the college can monitor the status of financial resources.
- Design and implement a process for departments to formulate budget requests.
- Manage finances and the investment of donations and other income streams.
Jobs: Treasurer, accountant, controller, accounting technician, purchasing director, assistant director, associate director, budget analyst, accounts payable specialist, cashier, payroll assistant, accounting assistant, and accounts receivable supervisor.
Salary: Salaries in the business and finance division ranged from $51,108 for an accountant to $70,003 for a purchasing manager to $193,860 for a chief business officer, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
5. Career Services
The career office at colleges oversees the career development of students and alumni.
- Develop internship, recruiting, and job opportunities for students. Organize career information panels and programs to educate students about opportunities. Recruit alumni and parents to participate in networking events for students and alumni in career transition.
- Develop and deliver workshops on resume development, interviewing, networking, and job search strategies.
- Assess interests, skills, and values and identify relevant career options.
- Conduct mock interviews, review resumes and cover letters, and coach students and alumni about job search techniques.
Jobs: Career counselor, assistant director, associate director, recruiting coordinator, alumni counselor, assistant director for employer relations, and director of career development.
Salary: Salaries in college career services ranged from $48,358 for a career counselor to $100,497 for chief career development officers, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
6. College Marketing/Communications
The departments within college communications create and coordinate messaging about the college and its achievements to the media, alumni, parents, government entities, foundations, and the general public.
- Develop content for the college’s website, magazine, catalog, and other publications.
- Coordinate publicity events and find placement for stories with media outlets.
- Create themes for publications and writers, and interview and profile key campus contributors and alumni.
- Devise strategies for promoting the college.
Jobs: Director of communications, media relations director, editor, writer, webmaster, director of marketing, manager of public relations, designer, manager of publications, and associate director of digital communications.
Salary: Salaries in college marketing/communications ranged from $47,728 for entry-level gift officers to $180,000 for chief advancement officers, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
7. Computer and Information Technology
Offices within the computer and information technology division oversee the purchase and maintenance of computer equipment/software and service the digital needs of the college community.
- Communicate with campus users regarding their needs for technology and designs systems to help departments operate more efficiently.
- Develop training sessions and workshops to teach employees to use desktop and enterprise computing resources.
- Resolve problems with existing software and hardware.
- Evaluate emerging trends in computer technology, and recommend future resource configurations to campus executives.
Jobs: Programmer analyst, database administrator, network security analyst, systems administrator, network architect, web developer, applications developer, and service desk assistant.
Salary: Salaries in computer and information technology ranged from $60,947 for a programmer analyst to $75,840 for a database administrator to $252,794 for a chief IT officer, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
8. Financial Aid
The financial aid office staff advises students regarding options for funding their education.
- Manage and allocate financial aid resources based on assessments of the eligibility of applicants.
- Generate statistical reports on student aid.
- Collaborate with admissions to present informational sessions for prospective students.
- Develop policies and procedures for processing applications for aid.
- Supervise and coordinate award processing and packaging for all forms of student aid, including grants, loans, scholarships, and other awards.
- Reports on compliance to state and federal agencies overseeing the allocation of student aid.
Jobs: Financial aid advisor, assistant director, associate director, director, financial aid officer, financial aid counselor, and financial aid assistant.
Salary: Salaries in the financial aid office ranged from $42,840 for a financial aid counselor to $120,825 for a chief financial aid officer, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
9. Human Resources
The human resources (HR) office at a college oversees recruitment of staff, development of training programs, benefits administration, HR information systems, compensation policies, employee/labor relations, and diversity/inclusion compliance.
- Set employment policies and create an employee handbook.
- Assess the needs of employees and develop programs to address developmental and institutional priorities.
- Create strategies for attracting candidates and screen applications.
- Research options to optimize resources for employee benefits.
- Mediate conflicts between employees and develop programs to enhance employee morale.
Jobs: HR assistant, recruiting assistant, benefits assistant, benefits manager, recruiter, associate director for human resources, vice president for human resources, director of diversity and inclusion, training and development manager, and human resource information systems analyst.
Salary: Salaries in college human resources ranged from $44,183 for an HR coordinator to $200,592 for chief human resource officers according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
The Registrar’s office reviews and analyzes the registration process.
- Develop schedules of academic offerings in cooperation with academic departments.
- Evaluate and modify systems for maintaining academic records and safeguard the security of data about students.
- Provide documentation and advice to students regarding their formal progress toward graduation requirements.
- Verify that students have met the requirements for graduation.
- Update academic advisors on curriculum changes.
- Create and distribute reports to decision makers regarding enrollment.
Jobs: Registrar’s assistant, assistant registrar, associate registrar, registration assistant, registrar, transfer credit evaluator, and records technician.
Salary: Salaries in the registrar’s office ranged from $49,347 for an assistant registrar, $61,688 for an associate registrar to $123,960 for chief registrar and records officers, according to the 2017-18 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey.
Tips for Landing a Job in Higher Education
Most jobs in higher education require at least a bachelor’s degree. This means that potential candidates already have a relationship at the college they've attended so leverage that by positioning yourself early. If you’re considering career options as a graduate, there are many ways you can tap your college connections.
Start while you’re a student. Undergraduates can pursue internships, assistantships, student employment, and volunteer roles on campus while completing their degree to cultivate a background in the field.
Set up informational meetings. Because students and alumni are valued stakeholders, campus professionals will typically take on the role of advisor and mentor to students or graduates who have an interest in working in higher education. Approach professionals in departments you're interested in and politely request an informational consultation to learn what it takes to work in the field. Ask for suggestions about what you can do as a student or graduate to gain some experience within their department.
Use the same strategy at other colleges. When searching for jobs, use the same informational interviewing technique at other institutions to gain an audience with professionals in departments of interest. These sessions will help you showcase your interpersonal and communication skills, which are so critical in higher education.
Connect on LinkedIn. Most professionals in higher education are members of LinkedIn. Develop a complete LinkedIn profile and reach out to alumni and members of relevant professional groups for information and suggestions.
Job search online. The best job sites for finding openings in higher education are HigherEdJobs, the Chronicle of Higher Education, LinkedIn, and Indeed. The first two sites enable you to search by categories of administrative positions. Use keywords like “admissions” or “development” when searching for listings on LinkedIn or Indeed.