How to Become an Academic Advisor


Becoming an academic advisor typically requires a master’s degree in a human services field, preferably in Academic Advising. Some employers will hire you with only a bachelor’s degree in a field relevant to the area of advisement. You will also likely need relevant career experience to get into this career.


If you want to pursue this occupation, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this line of work:


• You have teaching and/or public speaking skills

• You are able to build good rapport with individuals from diverse backgrounds

• You learn easily, and can easily disseminate detailed information

• You have a customer service oriented attitude towards work activities

• You are interested in a career that offers regular, weekday hours

• You take enjoyment from coordinating information

• You have excellent computer skills, including proficiency with Microsoft Office


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an academic advisor. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed

Most academic advisor jobs require the candidate to have a master's degree in on of the following areas:


• Academic Advising

• Higher Education

• College Student Personnel

• Higher Education Administration within Student Affairs

• Counseling

• Human Services, Psychology or Social Work

• A specific academic field related to the area to be advised on, such as one within liberal arts, fine arts or business


Although a master’s degree in often preferred, it is possible to get a job as an academic advisor with a bachelor’s degree, provided the degree is in a field specific to the subject area of the advising assignment.





Experience Needed

Most employers prefer to hire candidates that have some related work experience. There are several ways to gain relevant work experience, including:


On-Campus Work: As an undergraduate, try your best to secure an internship or part-time, on-campus work in offices of student affairs (which may include assessment, advising and counseling, disability support services, student life, athletics, admissions, enrollment management, student financial aid, and scholarships) in order to gain valuable work experience in this field.


Advising Assistantships: Plan to attend graduate school full-time while completing an advising assistantship. An assistantship is a great way to acquire skills and gain experience in teaching, disseminating detailed information, and discussing academic issues with undergraduate students.


Volunteering/Shadowing: Volunteering with student-related activities on your campus, or job-shadowing advising professionals are two great ways to gain experience relevant to a career as an academic advisor. 



Skills You'll Likely Need

In order to become effective as a professional in this field, you'll need to posses a certain skill set. These skills will not only be needed to competently perform your job duties, they are also likely be cited by employers within relevant job postings.


• Able to build good rapport with individuals from diverse backgrounds

• Able to build trust and make people feel relaxed

• Excellent public speaking and/or teaching skills

• Coordination, planning and organizational skills

• Excellent computer skills, including proficiency with Microsoft Office software

• Ability to learn easily and disseminate detailed information

• Ability to work independently and collaboratively with others or in teams

• Good attention to details

• Ability to work with complex systems in a dynamic environment



Personal Traits & Characteristics Needed

In order to enjoy performing your daily duties in this field, you need to posses a certain set of personality traits. These traits will help you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, and may be cited by employers within job postings.


• A customer service oriented attitude to work activities

• A good sense of humor

• A good sense of personal integrity and ethics

• Able to listen with empathy, and without judgment

• A keen interest in working in education

• Take enjoyment from coordinating information

• Take enjoyment from developing innovative solutions to problems

• You enjoy the idea of a career that offers regular weekday working hours





Who Creates Jobs in This Field?

Academic or vocational secondary and post-secondary institutions typically hire academic advisors. In post-secondary institutions, they are often hired by a specific faculty or department.



Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming an Academic Advisor

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to become an academic advisor:


Step 1 - Check if you’re well suited

Make sure you have the right demeanor for this job, and general set of interests. Are you customer-service minded? Are you able to listen with empathy, and without judgement? Do you want a 9-5 type career? 


Step 2 - Get into school 

Start to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field that interests you. This may qualify you for some advising jobs related to that field.


Step 3 - Get relevant experience 

While you're in school, get a job working as an advising assistant, or even general work in the student affairs office. This will help you make important contacts, and give you relevant experience for your resume. You could also try approaching practicing advisors and asking them if you can job shadow to get a feel for the work. This step can be taken while you’re an undergrad or a grad student…preferably both!


Step 4 - Earn a graduate degree

Take your education to the next level by earning a master’s degree in a specialized field. Such fields may include academic advising, psychology, higher education administration, counseling, social work, or other fields. You could even pursue a master’s in the same field as your undergraduate degree.


Step 5 - Get a job

Contact all of the people you’ve networked with while you were gaining relevant work experience as a student to get leads on jobs. If this doesn’t work, speak to the Student Affairs managers at various schools about your career intentions. 





Details of the Career: Job Description

Academic advisors are responsible for assisting students with making informed decisions concerning their educational goals. They must also promote student success and increase student enrollment and retention by promoting and recruiting for programs offered by their institution.



General Job Duties

• Teach students about the content and structure of post-secondary programs

• Teach students about graduation or transfer requirements

• Disseminate certificate, diploma and university transfer program information

• Administer and interpret aptitude and program readiness tests

• Determine if a student is ready to enter the programs offered by the school

• Provide the student with confidence regarding academic decision-making

• Provide students with information pertaining the consequences or benefits of dropping and adding classes or changing majors 



Typical Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as an academic advisor can vary, and typically depends on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• The size of their employer

• The region in which they work


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Educational Counsellors occupational group earn an average salary of $62,905 per year.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the School and Career Counselors occupational group is $53,660 per year.



Academic Advisor Jobs

Our job board below has "Academic Advisor" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.





Academic Advisor Career: Work Conditions

Working Hours: Academic advisors usually work standard office working hours, although they may spend additional evening and weekend hours attending meetings, advocating for students and planning for their interactions with students, families or co-operative professionals.


Work Setting: Academic advisors may work in a variety of settings, although they usually work in offices where they can conduct private interviews with clients and in classrooms or boardrooms where they conduct group sessions.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that are similar in nature to Academic Advisor, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Admissions Counselor

Career Counselor

Human Resources Coordinator

School Counselor

Student Recruiter



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this How to Become an Aboriginal Housing Advocate career guide:


• “Occupational Profile: Educational Counsellor.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved August 10, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: School and Career Counselors.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 10, 2016.

• “How to Become an Academic Advisor.” McMahan, Adrienne Bishop (n.d.). University of Kentucky - Academic Advising Services. Retrieved August 10, 2016.



Relevant Scholarships

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as an Academic Advisor. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on the following pages:


Education Scholarships

Psychology Scholarships

Social Work Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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