How to Become a University or College Administrator

How to Become a University or College Administrator

If you’re looking for a career that involves a lot of responsibility, plenty of interaction with the faculty and staff of school, quality assurance and educational or administrative policy development, then perhaps becoming a university or college administrator is worth learning more about.


This field will take some schooling and work experience to get into, but it offers great pay, plenty of room for advancement, and the chance to have a direct impact on the quality of education received by a large group of students.


If becoming a university or college administrator sounds like it might suit you, then read on below; we’ll fill you in on what you’d be doing, how much you could make, and what you need to do to get into this field!



What is a University or College Administrator?

A university or college administrator is a blanket term that refers to those who who organize and manage the administration, support systems and activities that enable the effective running of an educational or administrative department within a school.



Education And Experience You’ll Need

The specific educational requirements for becoming a college or university administrator will vary widely, and are largely dependent on the specialized area in which you will work.


For example, if you’re becoming a departmental chairperson or academic dean, you would typically begin by working as a professor, which requires a master’s or doctoral degree in the area in which you will be instructing, and eventually leading.


If you are going to be specializing in an area of administration less directly related to academics, such as financial aid, student affairs, human resources, admissions and registration, you could start in an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and work your way into positions of greater responsibility.


Some employers however, may require that you have a related masters degree (such as in in counseling, accounting, higher education administration/leadership).




Who Creates Jobs for University or College Administrators?

As a university or college administrator, you could potentially be employed by any of the following types of post-secondary institutions:


• Community/junior colleges

• Professional schools (such as law, medicine, etc.)

• Technical,vocational and trade schools

• Universities (public or private)


Please Note: Because "University or College Administrator" is a blanket term, job titles and job descriptions will vary widely, and not all will have 'education' or 'administrator' in the title. They all, however will involve overseeing academics, administration, or student services at a post-secondary institution. 



Is This Career Right for You?

Regardless of your current stage of career development, you should have the following attributes if you hope to one day become a university or college administrator:


• A keen interest in helping an academic institution run smoothly 

• Willing to work to build good relationships with colleagues, students, and subordinates

• Able to make important decisions and take a stand when necessary, instead of trying to make everyone happy

• A belief that providing quality education should come before seeking personal gains

• A collaborative rather than confrontation approach to problem solving

• Well organized and able to handle a large workload

• Punctual, well organized and able to coordinate work activities with others



Career Advancement

If you approach your work with dedication and you display competence, diverse career advancement opportunities will open up to you, such as:


• Raises in pay and compensation

• Moving into positions of greater responsibility (with higher pay)

• Becoming the head of your department 

• Becoming university or college general manager or president

• Moving into a more specialized role, or a more general role

• Moving into other sectors outside of education 






Details of this Profession: Areas of Specialty

As a university or college administrator, you could potentially specialize in any of the following fields, all of which can be either centrally based or within faculties, departments or other smaller units:



Academic or Vocational Faculties: Nursing; law; arts; business; engineering; science; trades, etc.


Student Services/Affairs: Admissions, registrar; financial aid, counseling; career services; athletics administration, health services, etc.


Operations Administration: Quality assurance; data management; examinations; finance & accounting; marketing; human resources, etc.



General Job Description

Your responsibilities as a university or college administrator would vary based on your area of specialization and level of responsibility, as outlined below:


Operations Administration: If working in an operational area (such as accounting, HR or marketing), you would be responsible  for overseeing the work of staff, managing the budget and developing and implementing policy and quality standards.


Student Services: Specializing in student services would involve overseeing the creation, scheduling and assessment of nonacademic programs and services for students, such as financial aid, housing, and recreational activities. It would also involve overseeing the admissions and registration processes, including developing and implementing admissions and registration requirements.


Academics: As a senior academic administrator, you would oversee the development of curricula and academic policies. You would also participate in making faculty appointments and tenure decisions, and oversee the management of your department’s budget.


Please Note: These descriptions are meant to outline the role of senior administration staff. In entry-level positions, and other positions of lower responsibility, you would be responsible for the ‘hands-on’, direct implementation of programs, policies and procedures that senior staff develop.



Typical Job Duties

Your specific duties could vary based on your area of specialty. However, you could expect to be responsible for most the following functions in any administrator role:


• Working on committees including academic boards, governing bodies and task groups

• Assisting with recruitment, hiring and retention

• Administering the 'student lifecycle' from registration or admission to graduation or leaving

• Providing administrative support to an academic team of lecturers, tutors or teachers

• Drafting and interpreting regulations and dealing with queries and complaints

• Coordinating the examination and assessment processes

• Maintaining high levels of quality assurance (which may include course evaluation and course approval procedures)

• Using information systems and preparing reports and statistics for internal and external use

• Contributing to policy and planning

• Managing budgets and ensuring financial systems are followed

• Supervising other administrative staff (and possibly faculty)

• Liaising with other administrative staff, academic colleagues, teachers and students



Salary for University or College Administrator

The salary level you could earn as a university or college administrator can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your professional qualifications (your level of relevant education, experience, etc.)

• The size and budget of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties and functions

• The type of remuneration package you are offered (such as if you are entitled to bonuses, financial benefits, etc.) 


Salary in Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Administrators - Post-Secondary Education and Vocational Training occupational group is $86,000 per year.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary level of Americans in the Postsecondary Education Administrators occupational group is $88,580 per year.



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Typical Work Environment 

Working Hours: You could expect to work normal, weekday working hours (such as 9-5). However, overtime would likely be required from time to time, which could involve going in early, on weekends, or staying late. 


Working Conditions: Work in this field would be held within a comfortable office environment. It would be fast-paced, stimulating and sometimes demanding, as it would involve plenty of interaction with with students, community members, parents, faculty, state and local policymakers and business leaders.



Careers Similar to ‘University or College Administrator’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as University or College Administrator:


• Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

• Controller

• Dean

• Director of University Admissions

• Education Programs Administrator

• Operations Manager

• Superintendent 



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this How to Become a University or College Administrator career guide:


• “Postsecondary Education Administrators.” May 2015 edition. U.S. Government - Department of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 18, 2016.

• “College Administrator.” (n.d.). The Princeton Review. Retrieved July 18, 2016.

• “Ask the Administrator: Breaking Into Administration.” (July 30, 2008). Inside Higher Ed: Confessions of a Community College Dean. Retrieved July 18, 2016.

• “Job Profiles: Education Administrator.” (n.d.). Prospects. Retrieved July 18, 2016.



Scholarships for Becoming a University or College Administrator 

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a university or college administrator. You can search for scholarships matched to that/those fields of study on the following pages:


Business Administration Scholarships

Education 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!



Becoming a University or College Administrator: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or necessary) for becoming a university or college administrator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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