College Student Services Director: Education, Salary, and Outlook
College student services directors take on vital roles on campuses across the U.S. and around the world. They manage all functions in student affairs and student services departments, including overseeing their college’s financial assistance programs, coordinating student work and volunteer opportunities, and implementing strategies for increasing student enrollment and participation in the school’s various programs and events.
Colleges and universities usually place a high value on employing competent, well-educated student services directors. The student services director is crucial in helping the school remain relevant. Their department is essentially the face of the school. On a day-to-day basis, it’s solely responsible for interacting with prospective students and ensuring the satisfaction of current students and alumni. In most cases, this position requires a person who is available to work full time on a year-round basis.
At a glance: college students services director
While the role of student services and affairs departments in colleges and universities hasn’t changed much over time, the way that directors and those working in these departments perform their jobs has. An influx of new technologies has been implemented in the field in recent decades, which means that college student services directors and their employees have had to adapt to changes in processes. As technology evolves, it can be expected that student affairs and student services professionals will have to continue learning new methods for performing their tasks.
Job description: college student services director
College student services directors work full-time hours and are usually required to be in the office year-round, regardless of the school’s calendar. They’re responsible for overseeing all activities that occur within their department. A typical list of responsibilities for this position consists of:
- Lead and oversee day-to-day operations in the student services/student affairs department
- Coordinate communications and directives for their school, ensuring cohesiveness between departments
- Analyze and interpret students’ scores and engagement data to determine key areas for improvement
- Plan and monitor their department’s budget to ensure spending is in line with the school’s objectives
- Plan, organize and direct school events and activities that keep students and faculty engaged
- Conduct regular reviews of student satisfaction and success and implement changes when necessary
- Address student and faculty complaints and investigate whenever necessary
- Direct the school’s participation in athletic leagues in conjunction with the athletic department
- Oversee student financial aid programs and scholarship opportunities
- Hire, train and supervise student affairs and student services employees
- Coordinate student employment and volunteer opportunities
Who makes a good college student services director?
Employers usually look for several key qualities when hiring student services directors. These include:
- A good leader who is comfortable delegating and good at empowering their employees
- A high level of organizational ability and superior time management skills, as student services directors have a long list of duties, many of which may require attention on a daily or weekly basis
- Excellent interpersonal communication skills — oral and written
- A thorough understanding of municipal, state, and federal laws that may apply to the education system or school administration
- Ability to perform in-depth analyses on large volumes of data, turning them into high-level informational reports that are clear and concise
College student services directors in-depth
Education requirements for college student services directors
Some schools may be willing to hire a student services director with just a bachelor’s degree if they have plenty of work experience in school administration. However, most search for candidates with a master’s degree in education, such as the MEd in Higher Education Administration from Concordia University-Portland.
While school administration experience is important to most employers looking to hire a new student services director, chances of being hired for the position are usually a lot higher for those whose experience is at a college or university level. It’s also preferred that candidates have experience working directly with students in an administrative role.
Certifications for college student services directors
Some employers may require a prospective student services director to hold additional certifications in their field beyond a master’s of education. Those who don’t may encourage their student services director to obtain advanced certifications whenever possible. Some advanced certificate courses that may be available to student services directors include a student support certificate or professional administrator license.
Average salaries for college student services directors
College student services directors earn varying wages, depending on their experience level, the school they’re working for, and their geographic location.
According to PayScale.com, salaries for student services directors at the college level range from $44,000 to $89,000 per year, with the median salary sitting at $62,000. Bonuses for this role vary greatly, as well, with the lowest reported bonus being $484, and the highest sitting at around $10,000.
ZipRecruiter reports that wages for this role range from $21,000 to $142,000, with the median being $70,975 per year. Glassdoor reports a slightly narrower range, with the lowest pay being $58,000 and the highest being $142,000. According to its website, the median salary is $93,776.
Potential career growth for college student services directors
While there isn’t a specific listing for student services directors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that opportunities for postsecondary administrators are on the rise. According to this agency, which gathers and publishes statistics for many occupations throughout the U.S., postsecondary education administrators are likely to see a 7% rise in opportunities by the year 2028.
Pros and cons of becoming a college student services director
While socializing with students of all types is often a selling point for individuals looking into this career, there may be times when office work takes precedence over the more enjoyable aspects of a college student services director’s job.
- Meeting many of the school’s students and faculty
- Helping students achieve their goals through various programming opportunities
- Working with alumni and seeing graduates succeed in their careers
- Hiring student services employees and building a team that you trust to carry out the goals of your department
- Liaising with each of the school’s departments and making connections with interesting, educated individuals
- At times, spending entire days in your office completing paperwork or analyzing data instead of interacting with peers and students
- Responsibilities are plentiful, which means work can get backed up from time to time
- All complaints about the school, as well as its students and faculty, are your responsibility to investigate
Professional development opportunities for college student services directors
There are plenty of chances for student services directors to learn new skills and enhance the ones they have through learning and professional development opportunities. The annual NASPA conference takes place each spring. It offers student services and student affairs professionals the chance to congregate with peers from all over the country. At the conference, college-level school administration challenges are typically discussed, as well as upcoming changes within the industry.
Continuing education for college student services directors
College student services directors can further develop their professional skills through continuing education courses and certificate programs. These programs are widely available, including professional administrator licensing courses. Additionally, classes that are written to help school administrators enhance their skills are often available. They focus on topics such as communication, student relations, and school organization.
Professional associations for college student services directors
There are a variety of organizations throughout the U.S. that support college-level student services directors. These include:
- American College Personnel Association
- National Education Association
- NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
- American Association of Blacks in Higher Education
- Association of Fraternity Advisors
- National Association for Campus Activities
- National Association for College Admission Counseling
Best of the web
Professionals in student services and student affairs can stay connected to their industry on a daily basis by checking the blogs and social media accounts of education’s top professionals. These resources can provide new techniques for staying up to date with changes in laws or administrative procedures, as well as offer ideas for planning school events and increasing student success and engagement. Additionally, by interacting with college student services directors and other professionals online, you may make outstanding connections that can serve you well throughout your career.