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Become a University Counselor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a university counselor. Research the job duties, skills, education requirements and experience needed to start a career in admissions counseling. View article »

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  • 0:04 Becoming a University…
  • 0:54 Career Requirements
  • 1:41 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:52 Step 2: Find Work in…
  • 3:37 Step 3: Join an Organization

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Video Transcript

Becoming a University Counselor

So you think you might like to become a university counselor. A university counselor, sometimes referred to as an admissions counselor, is often the first line of communication between students and a university. The services provided by a university counselor are especially important for students preparing to be admitted as freshmen or transferring in from another school.

University counselors might need to travel for several weeks or months out of the year to different high schools around the state or country. However, many counselors get summers off when school is out. Part of the job is giving group presentations to prospective students and their parents. Other job duties can include meeting individually with students, answering questions, handing out admissions material, and setting up campus visits for prospective students.

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  • College Student Counseling

Career Requirements

So what are the career requirements for a university counselor?

Degree Level Employers look for someone with a bachelor's degree and some prefer a master's degree
Degree Fields Education, public administration, or communications
Experience At least one year of experience in a college or admissions office
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, leadership skills, ability to work independently and in a group, ability to travel, working knowledge of Microsoft Office, PeopleSoft, and specific student information systems, ability to operate a video projector
Salary $88,580 (Median salary for a postsecondary education administrator)

Sources: Job postings by various employers (August 2015), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

All employers in this field require at least a bachelor's degree. Though a major is not always specified, students may consider completing a degree program in education, public administration, or communications. Additionally, choosing a minor or a double major in any of these areas may help students further develop the skills employers are looking for. For example, students could major in education and minor in public administration, or they could double major in communications and education.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship. Employers are looking for graduates who have an understanding of the admissions office environment. An internship may be undertaken while completing a degree program and may count as a course credit.
  • Learn a second language. Admissions counselors have to work with diverse populations. Being able to understand and speak a non-English language may help a counselor gain employment.
  • Take a course related to adolescent development. Since graduates may be working with a large number of adolescents, insight into this age group may improve employment chances and enhance the quality of a university counselor's job performance.

Step 2: Find Work in Admissions

Because employers require at least a year of experience working in a university admissions office, graduates may have to start in an entry-level position. A new graduate may seek employment as an assistant to a university counselor or as a staff assistant. Working experience in a related area, such as student leadership, sales, marketing, or public relations, may be sufficient experience for some employers.

Success Tip:

  • Seek openings at your alma mater. A university's graduates are more likely to have a working knowledge of that university's programs and practices. To increase their chances of being hired, counselors may wish to apply with the university from which they graduated.

Step 3: Join an Organization

Joining the National Association for College Admissions Counseling can be beneficial to future advancement. The NACAC is comprised of thousands of admissions counselors and benefits of membership include education opportunities, career assistance, networking opportunities, and annual conferences.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree, finding a job in admissions, and joining admissions organizations are the steps to take if you would like to make the most of a career as a university counselor.

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