Best Careers 2009: Higher Education Administrator

U.S.News & World Report

Overview. If you liked attending college, chances are you'll like working there, too. Compared with most office environments, college surroundings are beautiful, the atmosphere intellectually stimulating, and the work hours more forgiving. And things really lighten up in the summer. For better or worse, there are lots of management jobs on campus because university bureaucracies tend to be large, from student affairs to academic affairs, admission to alumni affairs, physical plant to student health service. The job market is projected to be strong and, unlike so many teaching positions that are part time/temp/ and have few benefits, most administration positions are full time, benefited, and relatively permanent.

One downside: Office politics can be brutal. Political correctness also bothers some people, who feel that holding liberal views is a litmus test for getting hired or promoted. Many administrator positions require a master's or Ph.D. Universities sell degrees, after all. They need to practice what they preach.

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A Day in the Life. You review your budget to discover that the college's urban outreach program is spending too much money. So, you schedule a meeting with that program's manager. Next, you interview a series of candidates for residence hall supervisor. Then, a parent comes in furious that her child's dormitory roommates are pot smokers: "Can you even monitor that?" she fumes. You use your people skills to calm her down and assure her you'll bring up the issue at the next housing staff meeting. You're glad that your final task of the day is to conduct an evaluation of your favorite staff member.

Smart Specialties

Student Affairs/Student Life. The work is unusually pleasant: You spend your day dealing with orientation, residence hall activities, and student clubs and organizations. Competition for these jobs is less rigorous than for academic ones, so you can often get your first job with just a bachelor's degree with nearly any major, although a master's in college student affairs will help you move up.

Learn more: NAPSA Student Affairs Careers Page

Community College positions. Growth in this sector is expected to be particularly strong, with ever weaker high school students encouraged to consider postsecondary education and more adults seeking retraining.

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Salary Data

Median (with eight years in the field): $61,400

25th to 75th percentile (with eight or more years of experience): $59,000-$115,000

(Data provided by


U.S. News rankings of graduate programs

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