How to Become a Higher Education Administrator

May 18, 2023 Watermark Insights

How to Become a Higher Education Administrator

Administrators are essential to the internal operations of higher education institutions. If you are interested in this field, learning about the job market and roles can better prepare you for working in this industry. 

What Is Higher Education Administration? 

Higher education administrators are responsible for the organization, planning, management, and execution of institutional operations and improvement efforts. While faculty teach students and conduct academic research, administrators complete the tasks essential to keeping institutions running. Some examples of administrative responsibilities include: 

  • Handling admissions and enrollment. 
  • Delegating financial aid. 
  • Establishing department budgets. 
  • Planning and implementing new facilities, like dorms and dining halls. 
  • Hiring new staff and faculty members. 

Higher education administration is a diverse field with many specialties and positions available, making it great for individuals of all skill sets and interests. 

What Degrees Do Higher Education Administrators Need? 

What Degrees Do Higher Education Administrators Need?

Most positions in higher education administration require a master's degree. While some jobs might allow opportunities for individuals with only a bachelor's degree, individuals interested in pursuing this career option should anticipate needing some kind of graduate study. 

Students preparing to work as a higher education or university administrator can take many options when choosing master's programs. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can also help prepare candidates for various roles relating to running a university, from finances to marketing.  

Doctorates are rarer in this field, but they can help increase competitiveness and specificity when looking for a job in higher education administration. 

Work Experience 

In addition to the right degrees, candidates will also need the right experience. Most positions require individuals to have a few years of experience in a related field or the department they are applying for. Undergraduates can get ahead by working at their institution's various administration offices as assistants. They can understand the internal operations of high education administration, helping set them apart from other applicants. 

Candidates can also use other work experience to prepare them for working in higher education. Office jobs are similar to working in education administration since individuals often have many tasks and responsibilities to handle. Management positions can prepare applicants for that aspect of higher education administration, helping develop skills like collaboration, communication, delegation, organization, and time and resource management. 

Job Growth Potential for Administrators in Higher Education 

This career path has a stable growth projection. In 2021, experts expected this field to grow 7% over the next 10 years, resulting in around 17,600 jobs yearly. Most jobs will open at institutions due to current employees retiring or pursuing other positions. With so many higher education institutions available nationwide, job applicants can find a position that supports their needs and matches the culture they are looking for. 

Average Salary for Higher Education Administrators 

In 2021, the average salary for higher education administrators was over $96,900 annually or around $46.60 per hour. Because this position is more vague, you can find a range of salaries across the wage spectrum for higher education administrators. Individuals such as deans or institution presidents can earn well above the average when taking leadership positions. Likewise, individuals just starting out might find associate and assistant positions below the average. 

With steady job growth and a clear administrative hierarchy, individuals can move throughout the ranks of higher education administration to reach the level they want to work at. Starting in entry-level positions can help individuals gain the experience they need to gain senior openings. 

Higher Education Administration Career Paths 

Individuals seeking careers in higher education administration have many options when searching for positions. Individuals can work through various departments and roles. When pursuing this field, candidates approach higher education administration from many specific roles, including: 

  • Career services advisor: Higher education administration has many facets involving working with students. Career services departments ensure programs and majors adequately prepare students for the workforce while providing services to enhance their experiences, like job fairs and resume-building workshops. Advisors can meet with students to discuss their career goals and help them get the experience and knowledge they need to enter the workforce after graduation by pairing them with opportunities and giving advice. 
  • Financial aid manager: Financial aid is essential for many students to attend institutions of their choice. Administrative teams are responsible for organizing financial aid budgets, reviewing applications, and allocating funds to students through scholarships, stipends, and discounts. 
  • Registrar manager: Higher education institutions must manage large quantities of students enrolling in classes and create a streamlined process. Registrar administrators and managers will organize available classes and establish schedules for students to select courses from. They must also determine how registration will occur, considering factors like seniority and high-priority students, like athletes. During registration, they must anticipate and solve problems related to classes filling up early, students being unable to access registration, and managing graduation requirements. 
  • Academic advisor: Like career service advisors, administrators can also help provide academic advice to students based on their career and academic goals. They can ensure students are meeting graduation and major requirements so they are on track to graduate on time. By working with students, they can match them with other academic opportunities, like research with faculty, conferences at other schools, or minors and concentrations that appeal to student interests. 
  • Department chair: Institutions need several departments to handle specific operations so that everything runs smoothly. Department heads manage their teams to ensure that internal functionality supports student and faculty needs while collaborating with other administrators to meet institutional goals and initiatives. They might report performance metrics to their senior administrators, but they often have control over their strategic approach to their role in plans. 
  • College dean: Many institutions have separate colleges to organize fields of study and support faculty and student interests. Deans lead these colleges, helping coordinate with other senior administrators to ensure college goals and initiatives align with those set for the institution. 
  • Institution president: Presidents are one of the highest administrators. They are responsible for many essential functions, from determining the institution's direction and goals to ensuring the school meets the board of trustee and state standards. They are always looking for ways to improve the school and make it more attractive to current and potential students.

With many available positions and roles for administrators in higher education institutions, individuals can find departments and roles that best match their skills and work experience. 

Optimize Administrative Operations With Watermark 

Optimize Administrative Operations With Watermark

Administrators across departments and roles need the right tools to support their daily operations and boost efficiency. Watermark designed data collection and analysis software solutions for higher education institutions, helping increase visibility and accessibility for administrators and faculty. With this information, administrative teams can drive stronger decisions and implement initiatives that better reflect the needs of their students and faculty. 

Request a demo today and discover how Watermark can streamline administrative functions for your institution. 

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