Become a Director of Student Affairs: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 10, 2020

Should I Become a Director of Student Affairs?

Directors of student affairs in postsecondary education are leaders who influence the culture and atmosphere of their school. This requires both relational and administrative skills as well as a commitment to the success of the institution's students and faculty.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's and master's; doctoral degree could be helpful
Degree Field Education administration, educational leadership
Key Skills Effective communication with individuals and groups, motivating others, budget management and administrative skills
Salary $88,390 (median salary for postsecondary education administrators in May 2014)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

At minimum, an aspiring director of student affairs must have a bachelor's degree, but more often, a master's degree is required. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there isn't a specific major one should pursue because many directors begin their careers as staff members and then work their way to advanced positions while pursuing a graduate degree (

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

A director of student affairs might be responsible for managing student activities, overseeing student clubs, managing budgetary information and working with students to give referrals for community services and counseling. This position is commonly found in colleges and universities, although some directors may work at private college preparatory schools. According to the BLS, there were 161,800 postsecondary education administrators in the U.S. in 2012. Location can affect an administrator's salary, with wages varying from state to state.

Step 3: Pursue Further Education

In a master's degree program in student affairs administration, students can learn about leadership, student personnel services and school administration in postsecondary institutions. Students can complete these programs in 2-3 years and may have a choice between completion of a thesis or additional courses and a comprehensive exam. They might take courses in college advising and counseling, principles of adult learning and student development. Other common courses include higher education law and educational research. During their master's degree studies, students are often required to complete a practicum at a college or university.

Step 4: Pursue Further Certification

Professionals working as directors of student affairs are not required to hold a specific license or certification. However, according to Inside Higher Education, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) is designing a credential for professionals working in student affairs. The National Association of Student Affairs Personnel Administrators (NASPA) offers continuing education opportunities through a student affairs development conference.

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