Teaching Careers Updated November 13, 2019

Academic Advisor: Job Requirements and Salary Info

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Becoming an academic advisor means devoting your career to helping young people fulfill their potential. High schools, community colleges, and universities all over the country employ academic advisors to help their students navigate decisions regarding their education. Few professions are more noble and necessary. As such, academic advising should appeal to anyone with a true passion for helping students get the most out of their education.

At a glance: academic advisors

Academic advisors help students plan their years of academia as well as prepare for life after graduation. Academic advisors are crucial in guiding students through the logistics of credits, applications, tests, schedules, and other assistance programs.

Academic advisor job description

Though the specific duties of an academic advisor may vary with the age range of the student population, guiding students on the correct academic path is at the forefront of all levels. Academic advisors meet with students individually and in groups to assess interests, skills, and potential careers. They offer networking and mentoring support to foster academic goals and decisions. Though not considered a counseling position, academic advisors often discuss and ask questions of their students to help determine possible career and study paths.

Academic advisors provide insight to students on what courses to take and the graduation requirements of their specific programs. They help students with career planning and coordinate orientations for new and transfer students. They also review placement and other standardized test scores, transcripts, and course prerequisites to help determine whether a student is eligible to join certain programs or classes.

Academic advisors are often a main point of contact for students and the work frequently involves ensuring timely communications to students regarding:

  • Important dates and deadlines
  • Registration
  • Institutional policies and procedures
  • Course changes
  • Costs of tuition and instructional materials
  • Facilities maintenance
  • School-wide initiatives
  • Transfer requirements
  • State and federal mandates

Academic advisors usually maintain a schedule that allows students to drop in or make an appointment to discuss these important topics. In addition, academic advisors may refer students to specialized staff for such issues as psychological/emotional counseling, financial assistance, and study-abroad programs.

Academic advisors often help with the logistics of evaluating and determining how credits will transfer between schools, performing and interpreting degree audits, and communicating academic probation challenges. They have to maintain accurate records of their work, including all interactions with students.

Academic advisors may serve as a liaison for the school. They will represent the school to prospective students while fostering good relationships with other advisors, colleges, and departments. Advisors may attend events, such as college fairs, to discuss enrollment opportunities with students and parents. They may meet with prospective students to gauge their interests and abilities, as well as discuss programs and opportunities available at their institution. These discussions will help determine whether the institution and the student would make a good match.

Who makes a good academic advisor?

Someone who:

  • Is highly intuitive and empathetic
  • Has excellent interpersonal skills
  • Is a problem-solver
  • Is passionate about connecting with students
  • Is patient and resourceful
  • Is organized with great attention to details
  • Is service-oriented
  • Is skilled with computers
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Is thoughtful about interacting with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Has excellent oral and written communication skills

Academic advisors in-depth

The road to becoming an academic advisor can depend on which type of working environment you decide to pursue: high school, community college, or university.

High school academic advisors

High school academic advisors guide teen students to graduation and acceptance to an institution of higher learning. They help students determine fields of interest and ensure student understanding of graduation requirements. Information on college majors and vocational programs will be shared and displayed. Students often require assistance in college and financial aid applications and preparation for exams like the SAT or ACT, as well as any college entrance exams.

Other students will need help planning for a career after high school graduation. Advisors will help in choosing a career, internship, or apprenticeship, as well as completing job applications, creating resumes, and developing interview skills.

Career workshops are often run by academic advisors giving information, inspiration, and opportunities to students in future career choices.

Postsecondary academic advisors

At the community college level, academic advisors work with students of many age groups, from teenagers all the way to the middle-aged and retirees. Academic advising at this level includes helping students find and enroll in the right classes, transfer to a university to complete their bachelor’s degree, or seek jobs and career opportunities.

People who become university academic advisors have a variety of options of where to work, from small private schools to large public universities. In addition to helping students choose the right courses and ultimately pick the right major, university academic advisors offer counseling on nearly every aspect of a student’s social and professional life.

At this level, most advisors are sought out by the student to handle academic situations like majors and course selection. Postsecondary academic advisors also provide support through struggles such as managing priorities, testing and class anxiety, and helping to foster independence. It’s important for academic advisors to supply a supportive environment and make meaningful connections.

Education and certification requirements

  • Education: Bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • Typical study time: 4-6 years

To become an academic advisor, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Academic advisors with a master’s degree have a greater chance for promotions and an increase in salary. It’s especially helpful to have a degree in a field highly relevant to the job, such as education or counseling. Many employers want to hire people with an advanced degree in a field like education leadership.

Other academic areas prepare people particularly well to become academic advisors. People with degrees in disciplines like psychology, counseling, social work, marketing, student development, higher education leadership, and career development tend to find many academic advisor positions are open to them.

Many job openings do not stipulate a particular degree discipline, but do require the candidate to have prior advising experience. Prospective advisors are encouraged to seek work in the admissions or advising office of their college while completing their education. Doing so can provide valuable on-the-job experience that can help them obtain their first post-graduation job as an academic advisor.

Salary range for academic advisors

Salaries for academic advisors can vary based on state of employment, education, certification, additional skills, and experience in the profession or related field. Advisors at major universities typically earn much higher salaries than their counterparts at community colleges and public high schools.

According to ZipRecruiter.com, average base salaries for academic advisors by state varies from $35,423 to $49,790.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary of academic advisors, including those with years of experience, is $50,050. The lowest 10 percent earn $33,610 and the highest 10 percent earn $94,690.

Here is a snapshot of average academic advisor salaries:

  • ZipRecruiter.com: $45,490
  • Indeed.com: $42,548
  • Glassdoor.com: $48,367
  • Salary.com: $46,888
  • Payscale.com: $43,353

Advisors also are eligible for benefits and all school holidays. Often they have  extended holiday vacations or reduced hours during the summer months.

Employment projections

Employment of academic advisors is projected to grow 8% from 2018 to 2028. Overall enrollment growth is expected in both high schools and postsecondary institutions. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds continue to seek postsecondary education to accomplish career goals. Academic advisors play an important role in navigating the education system and will continue to be hired to guide the increased population of students.

Advantages and disadvantages

Pros:

  • Creating relationships with faculty, staff, and students
  • Assisting students to realize and meet career potentials — being a real-world problem-solver
  • There’s a lot of variety — no two days are ever the same
  • Helping others find independence
  • Intellectual academic environment
  • Witnessing individual growth and success

Cons:

  • Staying current on ever-changing curricula and career opportunities
  • Stresses of enrollment practices
  • Very large workload
  • Maintenance of a schedule to allow drop-in appointments
  • Managing record-keeping and paperwork

Professional Development for academic advisors

Continuing education

Many academic advisors continue to take courses throughout their careers to improve their skills and keep their knowledge up-to-date. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, offers professional development, including annual conferences, awards, scholarships, grants, online courses, e-tutorials, and an emerging-leaders program.

Concordia University-Portland offers online programs aimed to develop well-rounded leaders within the educational system. Browse some of the programs to see how they may improve your academic advisor career.

MEd programs overview

EdD program overview

MEd Administration program

MEd Education Leadership program

MEd in C&I: Trauma and Resilience in Educational Settings

Certificate – Trauma and Resilience in Educational Settings

EdD Administrative Leadership

Professional Associations

Jobs available to academic advisors beyond advising

With additional education or certification, academic advisors may become teachers, librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals, or an educational administrator at a college or university.

Teacher: Academic advisors can easily become teachers if they obtain the proper credentials and have a strong educational background in the subject they plan to teach. A bachelor’s degree is required, although a master’s is preferred.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Academic advisors are well positioned to become instructional coordinators. Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to education or curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

School principal: A master’s degree in education leadership is excellent preparation to become a school principal. Academic advisors wishing to become a school principal should seriously consider obtaining such a degree. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators.

Education administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree in educational leadership may be a requirement.

Best of the Web

The internet makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent academic advisors.

Blogs to check out

Resources to follow on Twitter and Instagram

Learn More: Click to view related resources.
  • "School and Career Counselors," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, School and Career Counselors

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