Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, the office of the registrar, or student affairs.
Postsecondary education administrators who work in admissions decide whether potential students should be admitted to the school. They typically do the following:
- Determine how many students to admit to fill the available spaces
- Prepare promotional materials about the school
- Meet with prospective students and encourage them to apply
- Review applications to determine if each potential student should be admitted
- Analyze data about applicants and admitted students
Many admissions counselors are assigned a region of the country and travel to that region to speak to high school counselors and students.
In addition, admissions officers often work with the financial aid department, which helps students determine if they are able to afford tuition and creates packages of federal and institutional financial aid if necessary.
Postsecondary education administrators who work in the registrar’s office maintain student and course records. They typically do the following:
- Schedule and register students for classes
- Schedule space and times for classes
- Ensure that students meet graduation requirements
- Plan commencement ceremonies
- Prepare transcripts and diplomas for students
- Produce data about students and classes
- Maintain the academic records of the institution
How registrars spend their time varies depending on the time of year. Before students register for classes, registrars must prepare schedules and course offerings. Then during registration and for the first few weeks of the semester, they help students sign up for, drop, and add courses. Toward the end of the semester, they plan graduation and ensure that students meet the requirements to graduate. Workers in a registrar’s office need advanced computer skills to create and maintain databases.
Postsecondary education administrators who work in student affairs are responsible for a variety of co-curricular school functions, such as student athletics and activities. They typically do the following:
- Advise students on topics such as housing issues, personal problems, or academics
- Communicate with parents and families
- Create, support, and assess nonacademic programs for students
- Schedule programs and services, such as athletic events or recreational activities
Postsecondary education administrators in student affairs can specialize in student activities, housing and residential life, or multicultural affairs. In student activities, education administrators plan events and advise student clubs and organizations. In housing and residential life, education administrators assign students rooms and roommates, ensure that residential facilities are well maintained, and train student workers, such as residential advisers. Education administrators who specialize in multicultural affairs plan events to celebrate different cultures and diverse backgrounds. Sometimes, they manage multicultural centers on campus.
Other postsecondary education administrators are provosts or academic deans. Provosts, also sometimes called chief academic officers, help college presidents develop academic policies, participate in making faculty appointments and tenure decisions, and manage budgets. Academic deans direct and coordinate the activities of the individual colleges or schools. For example, in a large university, there may be a dean who oversees the law school.
Education administrators have varying duties depending on the size of their college or university. Small schools often have smaller staffs who take on many different responsibilities, but larger schools may have different offices for each of these functions. For example, at a small college, the Office of Student Life may oversee student athletics and other activities, whereas a large university may have an Athletics Department.
Postsecondary education administrators held about 161,800 jobs in 2012.
Postsecondary education administrators work in colleges, universities, community colleges, and technical and trade schools. Some work for public schools, and others work for private schools.
In 2012, about 74 percent of postsecondary education administrators worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools and about 16 percent worked for junior colleges.
Postsecondary education administrators generally work full time. Most work year-round, but some administrators may reduce their hours during the summer.
Although a bachelor’s degree may be acceptable for some entry-level positions, a master’s or higher degree is often required. Employers often want candidates who have experience working in the field, particularly for such occupations as registrars and academic deans.
Educational requirements vary for different positions. For entry-level positions, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient. Degrees can be in a variety of disciplines, such as social work, accounting, or marketing.
For higher level positions, a master’s degree or Ph.D. is generally required. Provosts and deans often must have a Ph.D. Some provosts and deans begin their career as professors and later move into administration. These administrators have doctorates in the field in which they taught, such as English or chemistry. Other provosts and deans have a Ph.D. in higher education or a related field.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Employers often want candidates who have experience working in the field, particularly for such occupations as registrars and academic deans. For example, some postsecondary education administrators work in the registrar’s office or as a resident assistant while in college to gain the necessary experience. For other positions, such as those in admissions and student affairs, experience may or may not be necessary depending on the position.
Many postsecondary education administrators, particularly those working in student affairs, were involved in student activities while they were attending college. For example, they may lead student organizations or participate in student government to gain the experience necessary to work in student affairs after graduating.
Computer skills. Registrars often need to be adept at working with computers so they can create and maintain databases and computer programs to manage student and school records.
Interpersonal skills. Postsecondary education administrators need to build good relationships with colleagues, students, and parents. Those in admissions and student affairs need to be outgoing so they can encourage prospective students to apply to the school and existing students to participate in co-curricular activities.
Organizational skills. Regardless of their field, administrators need to be organized so they can manage records, prioritize tasks, and coordinate the activities of their staff.
Problem-solving skills. Administrators often need to respond to difficult situations, develop creative solutions to problems, and react calmly when problems arise.
Education administrators with advanced degrees can be promoted to higher level positions within their department or the college. Some become college presidents, which is discussed in the profile on top executives.
The median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators was $86,490 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,920, and the top 10 percent earned more than $168,330.
In May 2012, the median annual wage in colleges, universities, and professional schools, the industry that employed the most postsecondary education administrators, was $89,200. The median annual wage in junior colleges, the second largest industry, was $82,070.
Postsecondary education administrators generally work full time. Most work year-round, but some schools may reduce their hours during the summer.
As part of their employee benefits plan, many colleges and universities allow full-time employees to attend classes for a discount or for free.
Employment of postsecondary education administrators is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Expected growth is due to increases in enrollments.
The number of people attending postsecondary school will increase as individuals seek additional education and skills to accomplish their career goals. As more people enter colleges and universities, more postsecondary education administrators will be needed to serve the needs of these additional students.
Additional admissions officers will be needed to process students’ applications. More registrars will be needed to register students for classes and ensure that they meet graduation requirements. More student affairs workers will be needed to make housing assignments and plan events for students.
In particular, significant increases in enrollment are expected in online colleges and universities. As a result, there will be more demand for postsecondary education administrators in these types of schools.
However, despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth in public colleges and universities will depend on state and local government budgets. When state and local governments have budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including administrators. As a result, employment growth may be somewhat slowed by state and local government budget deficits.
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