Higher Education Administration CareersWhy work in higher education administration? The field offers many ways to use your unique talents to support students and improve educational institutions. Administration is a vital part of academia, and colleges and universities need the direction of leaders who combine both evidence-based practices and innovative advancements.

With recent years bringing new obstacles to the field, colleges need talented, educated administrators who understand how policy, history, and finance, combined with a focus on student development, can come together to uphold the mission of higher education. A Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs can bring you into the company of passionate professionals working to ensure students, faculty and staff, and universities at large reach their short- and long-term goals. Although faculty often receive credit for being influential in their students’ lives, administrators deserve just as much acknowledgement for helping undergraduate students navigate the often confusing transition to adulthood and for helping graduate students successfully take charge of their careers.

If you’re considering becoming an administrator but are unsure of the impact you could have, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll cover 5 reasons you should consider higher education administration jobs.


5 Reasons You Should Consider Working In Higher Education Administration

1. You Want a Career That Does Good and Pays Well

Many people dream of a job that supports the common good in some way. Unfortunately, altruistic career fields aren’t often the most lucrative. The median higher education administration salary is one exception.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median salary for postsecondary education administrators hit $96,910 in 2021. The field is expected to grow at a rate of 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, with 13,400 job openings during that time, which indicates a healthy market for emerging MA in HEASA graduates.

Additionally, some of the top higher education administration jobs come with six-figure salaries. With the right educational background and an eye for creating effective policies, you can find an administrative career that is both personally fulfilling and financially supportive.

2. You Want to Help Meet Students’ Other Needs

The university is more than an institution of knowledge. For many students, it’s an opportunity to discover new facets of themselves and prepare for the challenges of workforce navigation. This is impossible to do alone; students need support, safety, and security to become the best versions of themselves and take the first steps to making their mark on the world.

Unfortunately, the college experience these days comes with pandemic-related challenges, threats of gun and sexual violence, challenges to civil rights, and a bevy of other heavy issues taking their toll on students’ mental, emotional, and physical health. In the decade between 2009 and 2019, rates of major depression among students more than doubled, from 8 to 18 percent. Institutions across the nation are seeing a sharp uptick in the number of students requesting mental health accommodations and on-campus therapy. Sadly, colleges are struggling to acquire enough resources to meet demand.

By working in higher education administration, you can address such issues by allocating more budget for student support services, researching the effects of mental health on graduate outcomes, hiring qualified counselors or establishing connections with mental health services, and other means of support. Your aims don’t have to be limited to mental health, either; you can help develop support services for first-generation college students, students who come from poverty, students who are housing or food insecure, students with physical or learning disabilities, and more.

3. You Support the Mission of Higher Ed, but Your Strengths Lie Outside the Classroom

It takes a specific set of skills to be a successful teacher, and not everyone enjoys that role. Administrators and faculty are equally vital to the success of higher ed institutions. As Hugh Martin, registrar and chief administrative officer at the British University in Dubai, points out, when a university’s academic and administrative processes function together—a goal administrative staff can play a large role in achieving—the university is one of the best places to work.

Alternatively, maybe teaching itself isn’t your concern, but rather the effort it takes to become an educator. Faculty jobs typically require a PhD, and earning one is a lengthy, expensive process in which many are unable to participate. Administrators, on the other hand, generally need a master’s degree at most, although there are plenty of opportunities for PhD-holders as well.

4. You’ve Encountered Administrative Frustrations as a Student or Teacher

If you’ve suffered from administrative bureaucracy as a faculty member, you’re not alone. According to a survey of undergraduate faculty, “institutional procedures and red tape” ranks as a top five source of stress. Students feel similarly and are less likely to return to college if they’ve experienced cumbersome administrative processes.

Further, these issues can cause greater complications than stress and student attrition. Poor management, fraud, discrimination, unfair practices, and bad press can decimate a college’s standing, possibly even forcing closure. The College of New Rochelle in Rochelle, New York, was forced to do just that after severe cash flow mismanagement led to a debt of $31 million.

If you’ve struggled with delays, financial issues, or other administrative pitfalls, your insight can make you a valuable asset. With the right administrative education, you can create effective solutions to solve the functional issues plaguing college campuses.

5. You Have Unique Skills That Are Needed in the Higher-Ed Space

The behind-the-scenes functions of colleges and businesses tend to overlap. Universities need accountants, human resources staff, marketers, and more to function effectively. Even programmers can play a role: Colleges are increasingly looking for candidates with skills in R and Python.

Cybersecurity experts are also needed. Did you know, for example, that colleges and universities are prime targets for hackers? Many institutions run on unsecured legacy software, and with troves of government data along with access points numbering in the thousands—not to mention students, parents, faculty, and staff who are unaware of cybersecurity best practices—cybercriminals can get their hands on sensitive information with little effort.

You may find your skills have a less direct tie to institutional support but are nevertheless helpful. For instance, sociologists and policy analysts can better address class disparities that stem from a lack of higher education. On college campuses, a sociologist can work to recruit more Black and Hispanic students and get them the support they need to graduate, or help design policies that allow for more equitable treatment of students.

Whatever your current talents, earning a master’s in higher education administration can prepare you to face the unique challenges of university leadership and point to ways your non-administrative skills can support college campuses.


Common Career Areas for HEASA Graduates

Still wondering how you can make a difference as a college administrator? Career opportunities are numerous and varied, but here are a few fields suitable for MA in HEASA graduates:

  • Career services: Your experience on the job hunt and your professional connections can be of benefit to many students.
  • Program administration: Your time in the professional world makes you more attuned to what employers are looking for. You can take this knowledge and revise program curriculums, structure, and internships/field work accordingly.
  • Institutional research: Improve the health of the institution by analyzing enrollment, financial, and staffing data, assessing programs, monitoring community reach and involvement, etc.
  • Institutional administration: As noted earlier, having firsthand experience with the successes and failures of academic administration makes you uniquely positioned to create more effective policies.
  • DEI positions: Colleges are increasingly supportive of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion practices on their campuses, but they need help making the right moves.

About the Pace University MA in HEASA

Pace University’s 100% online Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs program provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities universities and their leadership teams face related to assessment and evaluation. Students gain confidence in their ability to meet the government and accreditation performance objectives required to efficiently and effectively run programs in higher education.

At Pace, MA HEASA graduate students learn alongside the administrators who work at the very university in which they are studying. The future-focused, NASPA-aligned curriculum is taught by administrative experts and designed to address contemporary issues in higher education and student affairs. MA HEASA students develop the critical thinking and research skills required to understand how institutional structures, policies, and practices impact the decisions students from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds make throughout their academic journey.

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