Industry Spotlight: Higher Education

Afternoon in the University

“I want to work in student affairs,” said no freshman ever. As students begin their college journey, they are often asked: “What are you majoring in?” or “What do you want to do?”  While working in higher education is not a likely response, student affairs departments across the country are fully staffed with energetic, student-centered staffs, many of whom started their college journey with aspirations of being a doctor, financial advisor, or engineer. What happened? Where did a career in higher education, specifically student affairs, enter the picture?

Depending on who you ask you will get a different answer. Many had a memorable or impactful experience as an undergrad, while others had the opposite and want the opportunity to change that experience for future students. Regardless of the trigger or motivation, working in higher education rocks! Don’t believe me? Here are five awesome things about a (non-academic) career in higher education:

  1. Lifelong Learning

What better way to constantly learn new things than being surrounded by highly-trained educators! Regardless of the size or stature of the institution, working in higher education provides employees with countless opportunities to gain new knowledge or skills, engage in stimulating discussions, and participate in seminars, workshops, and events. Not to mention the ability to formally enroll in classes (more about that in #5).

  1. Work with ‘Independent’ Students

You may be wondering about the ‘air’ quotes around ‘independent’ so let me clear that up. College students, unlike K-12 students, come to college by choice (no truant officers here!) and will face many choices for the first time; choices they need to make on their own (parents aren’t around to set a curfew or demand study time at the library). Freedom! Independence! These terms may excite some students and terrify others. Working in student affairs provides the opportunity to help students navigate these choices, identify and strengthen their support systems, and challenge students to question the world around them. How cool is that! You’ll get to work with students at a pivotal point in their young adult life.

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  1. Any major will do

My focus has been on a career in student affairs; however, there are SO many different areas to work in at a college/university. Just because many institutions are non-profit does not mean they are not run like a business. Colleges have accounting departments, public relations, custodial services, and basically any other position or department you’d find at a large corporation.

  1. Job Mobility (if you want it)

While you may not see an accountant move into a position as a residence hall director, the opportunity to move into related positions is often available. Additionally, getting an advanced degree can aid in that mobility; or perhaps you want to relocate because you have always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest (or sunny Florida). Take your higher education experience with you as you transition to another institution.

  1. Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

When you visited your career center during college I am sure they told you that there is more to a job that the salary. So true! The benefits packages at a college/university can be comprehensive and often include tuition remission (for you and family members), matching retirement contributions, a healthy amount of time off (three+ weeks, loads of holiday-related time off, and summer Fridays), and health insurance costs that won’t break the bank.

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