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!

Many counselors may discover that they enjoy academic advising as much as counseling. For counselors who enjoy career counseling, academic advising may be a natural career fit. Although faculty naturally will serve as advisors to students in the academic programs, many colleges and universities will employ academic advisors to provide services faculty simply does not have the time to provide.

Degree Required

Most professionals working as academic advisors are likely to have a master’s degree. Counselors, with their strong training in personal and career counseling, are natural professionals to work as academic advisors.

Issues to Understand

Academic advising work is closely related to counseling in that it requires patience, good listening skills, nonjudgmental attitude, and ability to be good with details and highly organized. Academic advisors at campuses where I have worked have been responsible for advising, coaching, and monitoring large numbers of students. Academic advisors will need to stay apprised of academic programs and maintain good communication with academic departments and individual faculty. The academic advisor’s role is to assist students in retention and completion of their academic degree. Academic advisors will also need to liaison with services such as counseling, as many students facing academic difficulty and suspension are likely to be very stressed and anxious. Academic advisors need to work closely with career services as many students are likely to change majors and need career assistance. Academic advisors also work with students on academic probation to enhance their study skills. Professionals working as academic advisors may also serve on, or work closely with, committees that determine academic suspension.

Best Aspects of the Job

Professionals working in academic advising will likely enjoy being a part of students who are transitioning through college on their way to graduation and a career. Academic advisors also will likely enjoy assisting a wide range of students (from many cultures, countries, majors, etc.) and learning about their program of study, their lives and interests, and helping them navigate through their academic struggles.

Challenging Aspects of the Job

Because the volume of students served is high and the range of student majors very broad, academic advisors will be pressed to learn many details and to be able to manage multiple skills, details, and tasks. Though my knowledge of academic advising offices is not comprehensive, most academic advising professionals I have met comment that the most challenging part of their job is that they are expected to meet a wide array of needs while being short on staff.

Academic advisors also will spend much of their time advisingand assisting students in academic difficulty. Students in academic jeopardy are likely to require a disproportionate amount of the advisor’s time. Academic advisors may also play a role in academic suspensions, either serve on the committee that is charged with this unpleasant task or provide information to the committee about students in question.

Occupational Outlook and Salary

The BOLS did not list academic advisors as a distinct category in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, but a perusal in the job advertisements listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education over the past few editions shows salaries from $33,000 to $45,000. This range of salaries likely would target beginning advisors and those with a few years experience. Directors and assistant directors of academic advising would earn considerably more. Occupational outlook was also not reported, though in my long experience in higher education, academic advising positions are fewer in number than, say, positions in residence life, counseling, and so forth. Therefore, competition will likely be stiff when jobs do come open.

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