Education: Postsecondary Overview
The field of education is extremely broad and diverse, encompassing many types of positions. The experience and background of educators may vary widely based on the age of their students, the location of their institution, and the availability of resources. This page discusses teaching and administration in postsecondary institutions. Information on teaching and administration in public, private, and international K-12 schools can be found on our Education: K-12 page.
Teaching at a 4-year college or university will typically require a doctorate or other terminal degree (MFA, JD, MBA, etc.), regardless of the field. Some community colleges accept lecturers with a Masters-level degree, but these individuals often have extensive experience in their field or are working on a terminal degree. Due to the finite amount of such institutions and lack of movement in the tenured professorate, open positions are often extremely competitive, especially those that are on the tenure track. Though wages are relatively low, the job tends to be very fulfilling, as professors work with motivated colleagues and students, pursue personal research interests, and gain the prestige of expertise in a given field. While teaching at a community college comes with less pressure to publish and a more diverse student body, the teaching load tends to be higher than in a 4-year institution and the level of administrative support is much lower.
At the post-secondary level, there are no national teaching standards. Individual professors are deemed to be experts in their fields, and are bound by the policies of their employer. Hiring and tenure are based on the recommendations of colleagues rather than supervisors.
Job Search Timeline
- 2 years – 15 months before seeking employment: Explore post-doc or non-academic career options, if you’re interested. Attend and submit papers to academic conferences in your field.
- September: Begin networking at conferences, and reach out to your advisors and professors for recommendation letters.
- September – October: Start searching for advertised positions on higher education and academic websites (see below for a list of resources), as well as through scholarly associations, and your own network of advisors, department faculty, and former professors.
- January – April: Interviews, often over the course of multiple days, happen during this period. Be sure you have prepared and practiced your job talk, and you may also have lunch with students, dinner with other faculty, or a teacher demonstration. Remember that even the informal events are part of the interview process, and conduct yourself accordingly.
- March – June: If you receive a second interview, this is your opportunity to find out about expected course load, money and equipment, and general information about the department. If you need to, ask for an extension of time to consider an offer, and talk to a CCE counselor to discuss your options.
There is a diverse field of administrative positions available in postsecondary education. Below are a few of the most common:
- Registrars, Bursars, and Financial Aid Officers are administrative positions which oversee student registration, tuition, and financial aid documentation. Education varies by institution, but entry points to these types of positions often require a bachelor’s degree. Sometimes, these jobs are filled by current graduate students.
- Deans are often former or current professors, who have been put in charge of a specific department. Depending on the institution, deans may or may not continue to teach, in addition to their administrative duties. Because these positions are usually filled by academics, they usually require an advanced or terminal degree.
- Directors, Deans, or Vice Presidents of Student Affairs or Student Life are often in charge of admissions, student well-being, academic services, and residential and recreational life. There are no required educational or certification requirements for these types of positions, although they are often filled by PhDs or EdDs who enter administration rather than the classroom. In general, a doctorate is deemed a prerequisite to reach the very highest levels of academic administration, such as Provosts and Chief Academic Officers.
- Advisors and Counselors work directly with students on a variety of social, emotional, and practical issues surrounding academic and/or career related issues. Individuals in these roles typically have a Masters (or higher) in counseling or higher education, but people with relevant experience with college students are also found in these roles.
Job Search Timeline
There is no set season for academic administration hiring, as these positions are posted and filled on an as-needed basis.
Center for Career Education Resources
- Cover Letters: Academic: Tips for writing academic cover letters
- Finding a Job: Academic Interviews: Prepare for the academic interview
- Academic Careers: Learn about the timeline and resources for the academic job search
- NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- American College Personnel Association
- American Association of University Professors
Job Boards and Other Resources
- Academic 360 - meta-collection of Internet resources for the academic job hunter, including job postings and lists of professional associations
- Academic Keys - database for academic employment which also offers comprehensive information about faculty, educational resources, research interests, and professional activities pertinent to institutions of higher education
- Chronicle of Higher Education - the premier source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators
- Higher Education Recruitment Consortium - organized by region, this database lists both faculty positions and administrative positions from a wide range of institutions
- HigherEdJobs - faculty and administrative positions at colleges and universities.
- Inside Higher Ed - online source for news, opinions, and jobs for higher education