In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!

Because most counseling programs are located in Colleges of Education, it is likely that relatively few professors of counselor education have become deans of the college. As Colleges of Education are dominated by undergraduate and graduate programs related to the different teacher education programs, counseling faculty will be both outnumbered and likely have less political clout within the College of Education. Having made this statement, however, I have known some counselor education faculty who have become college deans.

Degree Required

To become a dean, you will need to have earned a doctoral degree (PhD, EdD) in counselor education, achieved tenure, and moved up the rank system from assistant professor, to associate professor, and in most cases, to full professor. (There are some exceptions to this.)

Issues to Understand

Because deans are high-ranking and well-paid administrative positions, there are many issues and challenges to be aware of. First, as all readers must surely know, you would not be entertaining the notion of becoming a dean anytime soon, given the long years needed to earn a doctorate degree, then climb the tenure and promotion ladder, and finally the competition to become a dean. A college dean is also a political position, and no matter how experienced and well qualified the dean, many faculty and staff will grumble at the successful candidate. Deans must also chart the direction of the College of Education (or other college), enforce tenure and promotion requirements, recommend or not recommend faculty for tenure, settle disputes, assist in the discipline of students, help recruit faculty, and ensure compliance with all the accreditations their college holds (e.g., CACREP, NCATE). Unlike most college faculty who will have a more flexible schedule, deans will work far more than 40 hours a week.

Best Aspects of the Job

Though I have never been, nor ever will be, a dean, I have worked under some and had the opportunity to observe and get to know several. I recall asking my own dean a few years ago what she thought was the best part of her job. She answered that it was the satisfaction in charting a course that could determine the future success of the College of Education. She went on to state that this knowledge helped when things became mired in conflict and her vision became clouded.

Challenging Aspects of the Job

There will be many challenges to the job of dean of a college. First, professors, who have been trained to question and critique ideas, have the reputation of being difficult people to supervise. In fact, the very word “supervise” would likely draw much faculty ire. (I speak as a longtime professor!) The dean must also determine which programs will be expanded and which programs may be cut. As this involves people losing their hard-earned jobs, you can imagine how fraught with conflict this would be. Deans also are actively involved in communicating with vice presidents and presidents and serve the role of advocating for their college and the programs within that college. Deans also must compete for resources against deans of other colleges, as budgets tend to favor revenue-producing programs. Basically, being a dean is a demanding job on many fronts, but effective deans are worth a lot of money.

Occupational Outlook and Salary

Despite the degree of difficulty and the numerous challenges the job entails, many faculty will be interested in becoming deans. Because there are a lot of faculty and few deans, competition is very stiff. The road to becoming a dean is moving from assistant dean to associate dean to dean. The BOLS (2010–2011) reports a growth rate of 2% for academic administration, and it is likely less for deans. The BOLS (2010–2011) also reports a median salary of $128,550 for deans in the College of Education.

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