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Career: College Administrator

A Day in the life of a College Administrator

College administrators make recommendations about admissions; oversee the disbursement of university materials; plan curricula; oversee all budgets from payroll to maintenance of the physical plant; supervise personnel; keep track of university records (everything from student transcripts to library archives); and help students navigate the university bureaucracy for financial aid, housing, job placement, alumni development, and all the other services a college provides. Many administrators eventually specialize in one field, such as financial aid, in which responsibilities include the preparation and maintenance of financial records and student counseling about financial aid. Specialists in information management are responsible for coordinating and producing the majority of university publications. Administrators who specialize in student affairs (sometimes referred to as student services) deal with residence life, student activities, career services, athletic administration, service learning, health education, and counseling. Competition begins with the onset of a specialization. At upper levels, a graduate degree in education, business, student personnel administration, counseling, or information management is required. The hours increase, and administrators spend even more time away from the office at university events or other schools.

Paying Your Dues

There are stringent academic requirements for positions as college administrators. While entry-level positions in financial aid offices, registrar’s offices, and admissions and academic offices often require only a bachelor’s degree, a PhD or an EdD is standard among those who hold influential positions in college administrations. Candidates for administrative positions should have good managerial instincts, strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to work effectively with faculty and students. People involved in the financial aspects of administration, including administering financial aid, should have significant statistics backgrounds and mathematical skills. Computer proficiency is necessary at all levels. Universities are just that: miniature universes. Most of their administrations involve all functions of a big corporation, even a small city, within the larger community in which they are located. A person can work for the same university for 20 years and have 20 different jobs during that time!

Associated Careers

Many college administrators remain college administrators, rather than switch to a different field; 40 percent are career-for-life administrators. People who leave often become professors, teachers, corporate managers, financial aid officers, or human resource coordinators in a variety of settings.

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