While the number of non-academic administrators at American universities has more than doubled over the last quarter century, writes the Pope Center’s Stephanie Keaveney, the ratio of full-time faculty and staff per administrator has plummeted some 40% since the beginning of the millennium.
“Today, there’s an administrative position for everything: marketing, diversity, disability services, sustainability, environmental health, recruiting, technology, fundraising, and so on and so forth. Every year universities seem to find a ‘need’ for new administrators, and each one brings a host of new lower-level staff positions,” she says.
This — during a time when many colleges are experiencing a leveling-off of enrollment and are dealing with inadequate budgets.
Several hundred universities now offer programs specifically tailored to train the next generation of orientation directors and student affairs specialists. Students interested in entry-level positions in higher education administration, such as dorm manager and diversity coordinator, typically pursue a master’s degree.
The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), which maintains a database of available degree options, lists 225 different master’s programs in the U.S. Those looking to advance to the top of the administrative food chain might seek a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) or doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) in higher education administration. NASPA lists 76 options for these programs.
Nine universities in the University of North Carolina system—Appalachian State, Fayetteville State, NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington, East Carolina University, UNC Greensboro, and Western Carolina University—are among those listed by NASPA.
For example, East Carolina University’s doctoral degree in education leadership “aims to build the capacity of experienced leaders at community colleges, liberal arts institutions, research universities, and other academic organizations.”
“The message seems clear,” Keaveney says. “If you want a job at a university, pursue non-academic roles requiring advanced degrees.”