Inside College Administrator Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Juggling Multiple Tasks Is Extremely Important...
Most people are surprised that my profession is a lot more than just going out a promoting a college. You have to be aware of trends, yield rates, conversion rates, and other things that involve student enrollment." (Director Of Student Outreach And Recruitment; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Exercise Sport Science at University Of North Carolina At Pembroke in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

"Opportunity To Interact With Academics And Influence Curriculum...
Most people don't have a clue what a registrar does; I certainly didn't when I was hired as an assistant to the registrar as my first full-time job after getting my bachelor's degree. What surprised me as a registrar was the amount of time I get to spend working with professors at a four-year college. In addition to that, I also get a voice and have influence in curricular decisions at the College where I am currently working." (Registrar; 2014)

Career: 21 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Business Administration at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois; completed Master degree in 1997

"High Level Of Responsibility...
What has surprised me most is how challenging a career in High Education administrative services can be. I am responsible for my own programs for which I have to manage from start to finish. There are students who depend on my organization and follow-up and their college careers and success depend on me performing my job correctly." (Administrative Assistant; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, female
School: Studied English Literature at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"The Political World Of College Administrators...
I am surprised by how political the field is within professionals. It very much pays to make connections with people in the field all across the United States. Furthermore, it is important to work with others to share ideas for the benefit of all. Working with others both at your own institution and across the United States helps promote movement and creativity." (College Administrator; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Education at University Of Florida in Florida; completed Master degree in 2012

"There Is Much Work Involved In College Admissions...
The amount of behind The scenes work it takes to find qualified candidates. The amount of interviewing, data mining, paper work, etc. it all seemed so straight forward but there is more ot it than i ever imagined" (Residency Coordinator; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Human Biology at Michigan State University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Low Pay...
I was surprised by how low the pay is for my profession even though it requires a masters degree- I thought a professional job that requires a specific masters degree would pay more. I'm also surprised how little counseling I do even though my position was advertised as a counseling role, I'm dissatisfied with how little of my degree is needed in my role." (Career Adviser/Academic Adviser; 2013)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Psychological Services at University Of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania; completed Master degree in 2007

"Academic Advising Full Of Ups And Downs...
Most students think being an Academic Advisor is a really great job. It appears that way because an Academic Advisor serves as a student advocate therefore most students leave an advising appointment feeling uplifted and empowered. The truth is, being an Academic Advisor can lead to burnout. Advisors work with hundreds of students on a daily basis and some students tend to be ungrateful for any help you give to them. Additionally, Academic Advisors can give students all of the information they need to be successful and it can be rather disheartening when a student does not utilize the suggestions and continues to not perform well." (Academic Advisor; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied School Counseling at Ohio University in Ohio; completed Master degree in 2008

"Satisfaction Of Getting A College Education...
Most people do not understand how rewarding helping students realize a dream of a college education. In the recruiting line of work, I get to help students experience this everyday. There are important parts that one must understand when dealing with students and their families, confidentiality is one of those." (Admissions Counselor; 2014)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: Studied Higher Education at Cumberland University in Tennessee; completed Master degree in 2012

"College Admissions Not Just A Sales Job Anymore...
Most people would be surprised to learn that working in Admissions is more than just a sales job. Rather, admissions professionals spend a lot of time getting to know the individual first and finding out if their school is a good fit. Finally, people would be surprised to know that many admissions personnel have a background in business and psychology or counseling." (Associate Director Of Admissions; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, female
School: Studied Business Management at Herzing University in Wisconsin; completed Master degree in 2012

"It Is Harder Then You Think To Get Qualified...
it is much harder then you think. You need many qualifications to be a well paid nanny and there is very little down time." (Child Care Worker; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Washington, female
School: Studied Theater at Cornish College Of The Arts in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 2002

"Job Flexibility...
You may be surprised by the flexibility an administrative assistant has. You have a general knowledge of office work that can fit almost any business. After graduation I've used my administrative skills in an automotive parts store, attorneys office, and now at a college." (Office And Administrative Specialist, Intermediate; 2014)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, female
School: Studied Administrative Assistant at Northwest Technical College in Minnesota; completed Associate degree in 2002

"Helping Students Help You...
I was surprised by the compassion and wonder one can find in a general college environment. It was incredibly adjusting from a student to the one that is able to help and guides students in a positive manner." (Academic Services Administrator; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Business at Florida State University in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Wide Range Of Opportunities To Gain Experience...
A surprising thing about higher education is the wide-array of positions available in nearly every field of education. There is plenty of room for advancement and you can easily find another concentration with related skills at most major universities. In addition, at smaller schools, you have the ability to take on a wide variety of roles under one title. This helps you keep your days interesting and never dull." (Educational Program Coordinator; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in South Carolina, male
School: Studied Higher Education Student Affairs at University Of South Carolina in South Carolina; completed Master degree in 2011

"Communication Is Important...
I was surprised to find out how many students had questions about financial aid and that I would spend so much time talking to students. Communicating skills are very important of this career and analytical skills." (Financial Aid Advisor; 2013)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, female
School: Studied Counseling at University Of Louisville in Kentucky; completed Master degree in 2009

"I was surprised to see that the pay scale doesn't always fairly correlate to the level of education earned. Some jobs requiring a master's degree barely pay $35,000 a year, which is inadequate." (Academic Advisor; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Higher Education Administration at University Of Missouri-Kansas City in Missouri; completed Master degree in 2012

"Amount Of Detail Required...
I was surprised how detailed grant proposal and review could be! Grant administration is definitely beneficial to those in the University setting!" (Grant Review Assistant; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Psychology at Taylor University in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"If they think about the career of research development at all -which is doubtful- people probably think either of grants or bureaucratic paper-pushing. While both of those things are occasionally part of the job, research development is more about helping university faculty craft the research portion of their careers. I help with research design, research trajectory, research integrity, and yes -grants and paper-pushing." (Research Development Specialist; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Anthropology at The University Of Chicago in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 1980

"Mining Students' Experiences To Improve Their Resumes...
Although retired from my career, I worked for 11 years at a state university in the School of Business preparing undergrad students for the job market, assisting them with developing their resumes and preparing them for job interviews. Many students came to me with very skimpy, unimpressive resumes. I was surprised at how much information I was able to draw from them when I prodded them for more information that they never considered relevant, information that showed much about their capabilities and could be included in their resumes. I realized I had to do much more than simply critique the resume they initially present me with. I was also very surprised at how frequently many of the students continuously returned to my office to chat with me. Many of them continued to do that throughout their four-year stay at the university. I often got to know them very well, guided them through their internship and job search process, and helped them connect with companies and land jobs upon graduation. It was a very rewarding and enjoyable career." (Program Manager/Job Search Consultant; 2012)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in Connecticut, female
School: Studied Psychology And Sociology at University Of CT in Connecticut in 1972

"High Impact Job...
I was surprised at how much of an impact I have on prospective students that are looking for a college to attend, and how their interaction with me can change their whole attitude about our University. I am also surprised at how much of an effect I can have on current students here that coming to me with advice about potential careers, and graduate school." (College Admissions Counselor; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, female
School: Studied Sport Management at California University Of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania; completed Master degree in 2010

"Ethical Challenges...
I was surprised by how many ethically difficult situations I face in my daily work. I must balance the needs of the university against the needs of the student on a regular basis. I also must navigate different cultural norms since I work with students from many different backgrounds." (Director Of International Student Services; 2012)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Iowa, female
School: Studied Higher Education Administration at Upper Iowa University in Iowa; completed Master degree in 2012

"I was surprised to find that people with almost any undergraduate degree or concentration can obtain a Master's degree in College Student Services Administration because it's about quality of experience and commitment to advising and supporting college students as they develop. Academic advising is a meaningful career because you get to work with so many awesome and bright students each day." (Academic Advisor (Student Affairs, Higher Education Professional); 2012)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, male
School: Studied College Student Services Administration at Oregon State University in Oregon; completed Master degree in 2011

"I was surprised with how little first year students would need to come and talk with me. Perhaps they were just getting help from their RAs or each other." (First Year Advisor; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, male
School: Studied Student Affairs In Higher Education at Miami University Of Ohio; completed Master degree in 2012

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Education Coordinator: "This job is very regular. If you value a schedule that never changes, this is an option. The benefits are also quite good. I enjoy interacting with students, and when I do get to write curriculum, I enjoy that very much. In general, this position is a dead-end job. There is no room for advancement. There is always an option to move to a different position within the medical school, but not in this department. Also, while I am grateful to have a job, this position isn't very challenging. Once you complete one rotation of the clerkship and learned the ropes, there's nothing more to do. I suppose technology could be upgraded and students issues change, but that's about it." (2011)

Education Administration: "I love that my job gives me the opportunity to engage in intellectually stimulating work that I feel contributes to the common good. I also enjoy the community in which I work. Most of the people I work with are hard workers who are very committed to their chosen career. Sometimes in my work I encounter problems/challenges/road blocks that do not have good solutions. This is very frustrating." (2011)

Associate Director: "I love interacting with students. I enjoy helping them enhance their resumes, create impactful cover letters, explore different careers, and negotiate salaries for new jobs. I also enjoy teaching classes whether it's in person or via a webinar (when they only hear my voice). It's always incredibly rewarding when a student recommends me to another student OR graduates and e-mails me to ask for more advice. It's confirmation that I'm in the right line of work." (2011)

Vice President Of A College: "The most difficult part of my job is deciding what to recommend to the president -- my boss -- in terms of the allocation of scarce funds to competing resources and what to recommend in terms of increases in annual tuition and fee charges to students. Crimes do occur on campus on occasion and these are major concerns. Sometimes one or more students are killed in accidents on and off campus. These are tragedies that make everyone feel bad. The best days are graduation day and the day when our training ship loaded with student cadets leaves for its summer cruise to Europe. The day the training ship returns in mid-August is also exciting and fun. Families and friends turn out in large numbers and we have a large celebration on campus. The days we solve difficult problems or just see the beginning of a solution to a difficult problem are great. "Wow! That's the answer! We've got it! We can do it!"" (2010)

Dean, Adult And Continuing Education: "Having a job that is full of so many activities can be both rewarding and frustrating. When you are able to solve a problem your can enjoy the satisfaction of completing a task or exercising creativity. At times the solutions may not be so easy to find or you may have so many things to do that you can't get all of them done. After a while you learn to set priorities and separate out the important things you need to do first. It is so easy to procrastinate that you have to pick the hardest thing to do first." (2010)

University Administrator: "The best parts of my job are the people I work with and the satisfaction I derive from helping others. My job is flexible and affords me opportunities to advance my education. Working in an educational environment keeps you informed of current careers and trends and advances in technology. The downside is that it is a large university with bureaucracy and turf issues. But the worst parts of my job are all the political wrangling, the red tape and, recently at least, the budget cuts." (2010)

College Administrator: "The best part of the job is working with students. Many adults who return to our program see this as a second chance for a college degree. They realize that earning a college education will make a huge difference in their careers and for their families. Over a lifetime of working, college graduates make $1 million more than high school graduates. The worst part of the job is when students have to drop out of the program for family, work or personal reasons. It's a big challenge to get a college degree while working full-time." (2009)

Associate Director, University Bursar'S Office: "I find the best part of my job to be the times when I am able to implement a new process or develop new functionality to make processes run more smoothly in our office. For instance, I enjoyed developing an internal website for our office that includes documentation of office procedures and policies. I also developed a database for tracking returned ("bounced") checks. I find developing efficiencies a rewarding thing to do. The worst part of my job has been when circumstances make it very difficult to make sure all tasks are being done, and done correctly. Challenges include times when we are not fully staffed, and fewer people must cover more work, as well as times when things just don't go as expected, such as one time when a database software upgrade generated incorrect data, resulting in questions from students and parents as well as a lot of time spent troubleshooting and correcting student accounts." (2009)

Study Abroad Advisor: "The best part of my job is encouraging students to study abroad, and then seeing them do it. It's very exciting to me to see a student research his options, ask questions, and figure out what he wants to do. The ultimate is when the students return from abroad and tell me how worthwhile the whole experience was. The worst part is not doing all I can because I have so much to do already. There are many projects I would like to take up, but it seems like there's never enough time." (2009)

Study Abroad Advisor: "The best part of my job is meeting so many different students who are interested in learning about other countries. I listen to students and learn what their goals are and why they want to study in another country and then help them find options so they can achieve their goal. I can sometimes travel and see our students while they are abroad, but the worst part is that I don't get to travel all the time or as much as I would like." (2009)

Career Background

College Administrator

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Importance Of College...
If you want to get into higher education, you must have a passion to serve and be there for others. Higher education and recruitment is important in this day and time and helping students realize this dream is of utmost importance." (Admissions Counselor; 2014)

"You Need To Be A "Jack Of All Trades"...
If you want work in college admissions, I would suggest working on your public speaking skills. Also, you must be extremely knowledgeable in regards to the steps of college admissions and the financial aid process. Also, you must be knowledgeable about different scholarships that may be available for students." (Director Of Student Outreach And Recruitment; 2014)

"Become A Certified Research Administrator (CRA)...
I would recommend becoming a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) it will open doors for you in many university and community organizations." (Grant Review Assistant; 2014)

"What Skills Doe I Need To Be A Registrar...
If you wish to become a registrar, you need to be both technically proficient and a good communicator. It's also helpful to have a background in higher education as an employee, not simply as a former student." (Registrar; 2014)

"General Knowledge And Basic Skills...
Once you have the general knowledge of an administrative assistant, all you have to do is stay up to date on programs and technology. No matter what the job is the basic tasks of an office stay the same." (Office And Administrative Specialist, Intermediate; 2014)

"Internships And Experiences Lead To Full Time Advising Position...
If you want to be an Academic Advisor at a college or university it is helpful to have experience working with college students or college ready students. If you're not already working in an educational field you might consider becoming a tutor or a mentor to college students. Additionally, if you're a student enrolled in a College Student Personnel or Student Affairs program you should seek out an internship and try to work in an office you could see yourself working in, in the future." (Academic Advisor; 2014)

"Honesty Above All Else...
If you want to be successful in college admissions it is important to be sincere above all else. Every interaction that you have with someone must be genuine in order for students to become attracted to the University. Finally, an admissions advisor must also be honest, both with themselves and with their students. Not everyone is a good fit for school, but everyone can be counseled correctly." (Associate Director Of Admissions; 2014)

"Time Management And Efficiency...
Develop time management and efficiency skills because they will help you perform your work most efficiently as well as help with your stress level, because there are a lot of moving parts in this type of work." (Administrative Assistant; 2013)

"Don't Let Math Stop You...
As a business major a lot of students get worked up in regards to math and as long as you can get past it in a college level one can practically apply business knowledge to that of a profession without math." (Academic Services Administrator; 2013)

"Communication Is Key...
Make sure you are comfortable talking to students, parents, and peers. Also, be comfortable with talking about sensitive subjects." (Financial Aid Advisor; 2013)

"Diversify Your Experiences...
If you want to go into higher education and student affairs, be sure to get a wide variety of experiences before starting professionally. Employers look for people who bring a wide scope of skills to the table, not just one narrow focus." (Educational Program Coordinator; 2013)

"Passion And Skill Are Required For Success...
You have to really be passionate about finding the best candidates. You have to realize that peoples futures are in your hands and you need to take that into consideration when making decisions." (Residency Coordinator; 2013)

"Masters Versus PhD...
Make sure to investigate the cost of your master's degree versus the typical pay for the career (you can look on If the master's degree is going to put you in debt taking a low paying job isn't worth it. It might be better to go for a PhD or a PsyD rather than a master's degree to open more doors." (Career Adviser/Academic Adviser; 2013)

"Collaborate With Others...
Network and collaborate with other institutions and agencies as much as possible. We are all doing the same work and there is no need to reduplicate resources and services if another agency is already doing them." (Academic Advisor; 2013)

"Get All Your Training Done Before Trying To Get A Job...
I would make sure that you get CPR training, medical tests, a good car and copy of your driving record before trying to get a well paying nanny job." (Child Care Worker; 2013)

"The Importance Of Creating Connections Worldwide...
If you want to be a successful college administrator, make sure you stay current with the research and always look to other institutions to keep current on trends and popular subjects. It will help your college stay on top of trends and encourage you to work with others from different institutions." (College Administrator; 2013)

"Admin Skills Needed...
You should know how to use a PC, especially all of the Microsoft Office programs. I use Word on a daily basis, and often use Excel and PowerPoint also. And if you've never used an electronic calendar, that's important as well. Though it's not necessary, it would be helpful to be able to type at least 50 words per minute. Although I rarely get multiple phone calls, using a multi-line phone can take some practice. Be comfortable with general office equipment use and troubleshooting - fax machine, copier, scanner, transcription, etc. I spend a lot of time on email and the phone, so good email and phone manner is important in establishing good relationships." (Education Coordinator; 2011)

"Roll Up Your Sleeves...
Anyone interested in evaluation should take some courses in statistics and program management. Also, general knowledge about higher education is very useful. Many of the faculty with whom I work are part-time and they depend on me to have the skills to carry out the work. Be prepared to "put in your time" and do jobs that you may think are "below" you. Keep your eyes and ears open as you do these jobs and LEARN. Once you have attained a higher level job, be prepared to roll up your sleeves at any point and help with the gritty details. You will be leading by example and building good will at the same time." (Education Administration; 2011)

"Volunteer In A Career Office...
If you want to get into career advising, see if you can do some volunteer work at a nearby college to review resumes or critique cover letters. College students love to get advice from industry professionals. You can also see if outplacement agencies are looking for volunteers or part-time contractors. That kind of work was great grounding for the job I have now. Speak with other career advisers to learn about their backgrounds and how they broke into the business." (Associate Director; 2011)

"How To Break Into The College Business...
Start in an introductory job in higher education at a college, maybe as an assistant to the Human Resources Director or the Bursar or as a junior admissions counselor. Learn all you can about your job. Work hard at it but don't fall into the trap of over-specialization. Learn all you can about colleges, universities and higher education. How does the entire institution function? Get to know other people on campus, especially in the faculty. A good place to get to know other people on campus is at the cafeteria at lunch time. Most people are interested in striking up a lunch time conversation with somebody who is new to the campus. Attend workshops and seminars that will increase your knowledge. Consider going to school at night to obtain a degree in higher education administration or perhaps business administration. Many colleges and universities will pay for your tuition and fees if the program is job-related." (Vice President Of A College; 2010)

"More Education Provides More Opportunity...
Education, Education Education! With every educational milestone I met, new doors opened for me. No, I was not a star student, but I was persistent. Did I ever fail? Yes, and I learned it was not the end of the world. It made me work that much harder but also made me that much wiser. Don't make excuses! Apologize if appropriate, but get back on track and stay there. Don't let yourself become a victim. When you become a victim others will be more likely to exploit your weaknesses." (Dean, Adult And Continuing Education; 2010)

"Think Before Responding...
Make sure when you do your work you pay attention to detail and think about the question before answering right away. Picture different scenarios and look at all sides of an issue, before delivering your advice. Don't rush to judgment in a disagreement. Be sure to talk with both parties involved. Also examine the best way to organize and manage your office and the work flow including the organizing and management of document flow and communications." (University Administrator; 2010)

"Do Work-Study In Various College Departments...
Take every educational opportunity you can. When in college, seek out work-study positions in the admissions or academic support offices. This will secure an entry-level position after college. Most colleges also allow employees to earn free graduate degrees, which is a plus. Working in higher education is great. The college atmosphere has so much to offer. It's a good environment to raise a family in too." (College Administrator; 2009)

"Know The Jobs Of Subordinates...
An accounting background would be beneficial to anyone doing a job like mine, and a CPA license would be even better. Speaking more generally, though: Thoroughly understand the jobs of the employees working for you. Do their jobs yourself until you understand which aspects of their jobs involve complications or difficult decisions. If you understand all this, you will be more likely to give good advice to employees and to prevent mistakes from occurring. Second, be as helpful as you possibly can to anyone who asks for your assistance. You will increase your own knowledge and gain the respect of co-workers. Although time-consuming, ultimately it is a win-win to be a co-operative co-worker." (Associate Director, University Bursar'S Office; 2009)

"Some Advice For College Administrators...
Try to improve your language skills, computer skills, time management skills and public speaking skills as much as possible. International experience is necessary. Good listening skills are very important. The more organized you are, the better. Do not be afraid to make proposals and come up with project ideas that will help your office. Do not be disappointed when things don't work out, just learn and keep going. If you are at a large institution, learn as much as you can about other offices and try to stay visible." (Study Abroad Advisor; 2009)

"Start Learning A Language ASAP...
The best advice for this type of career would be to learn about other cultures and how other people live around the world and to be open to learning about others. It can also be helpful to learn another language as early as you can. Even if you cannot live or travel abroad while you are in high school, learning another language helps you get inside a culture that is different from your own." (Study Abroad Advisor; 2009)