Dean of Students: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Oct 30, 2019

Learn about the career of a dean of students, also known as a dean of student affairs. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as a dean of students job description and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

A dean of students, also known as a dean of student affairs, responds to students' needs at a college or university and plans programs for campus life. Typically, an advanced degree is required for this job, and duties can vary depending on the size of the school. Here you will find the details of this career, as well as its salary and job outlook.

What is a Dean of Students?

A dean of students oversees social programs and support for students at colleges and universities. Successful deans of students collaborate with different departments, stay up to date on relevant student resources, and work directly with students. Education and experience requirements for this position vary, but many deans of students possess an advanced degree and have worked their way up from lower-level positions.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in education administration or similar field
Other Requirements Candidates may need to progress from lower administrative positions
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all postsecondary education administrators
Mean Salary (2018)* $111,210 for all postsecondary education administrators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dean of Students Job Description

A dean of students plans and directs university activities related to student services and campus life. As an administrator, a dean of students might help coordinate admissions, health services, financial aid, housing, and social programs for students. The office of a dean of students is generally responsible for serving as a point of information for students and responding to students' needs. A larger university might have multiple deans of students, each of whom has specialized tasks and an area of focus.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for postsecondary education administrators, including deans, will increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Deans of students employed by colleges, universities and professional schools earned a mean annual salary of $114,360 in 2018, while those working at junior colleges earned a mean annual salary of $98,020 that year.

Dean of Student Affairs Duties

The job duties of a dean of students usually include supervising various campus programs and serving as a liaison between college administrators and student organizations such as a student council. Social programs managed through the office of the dean of students might include Greek life and orientation events for incoming students. A dean of students could also coordinate services specifically for transfer or international students. Additionally, they might handle discipline-related processes and procedures.

While deans of students work primarily with non-academic issues, their office initiatives might include encouraging academic success and monitoring students who are struggling in classes. They could also provide advice regarding degree and distribution requirements. When serving as the head of an office or a department, a dean of students might manage the office budget and develop office policies regarding student life program development.

Career Requirements

According to the BLS, deans of student affairs might start out in lower administrative positions and progress to higher positions after obtaining an advanced degree in counseling or education administration. At some institutions, a doctoral degree is necessary for a top position in student affairs ( Master's degree programs in higher education administration and student affairs are available, and some programs can be completed online. Relevant course topics include the finances of higher education, governance and structure of universities, student privacy issues and students' personal development during college years. Doctoral degree programs in education administration are widely available and typically include field experiences in higher education.

Dean vs. Principal

The roles of dean and principal are similar, with a major difference being that a principal is typically the head of a K-12 educational institution, while a dean is a college-level administrator. However, some private preparatory schools, as well as some middle and high schools, do have a position called dean of students. This role is often a combination of assistant principal and guidance counselor, with the dean responsible for issues related to discipline, attendance, and overall student safety.

Job duties of a high school principal and college dean may differ because of the age and social needs of students; for instance, a non-residential high school would not have housing needs and would likely offer fewer health services and social programs than a university. High school principals typically focus more on curriculum and on the management of teachers and other staff. Individuals who wish to become a K-12 administrator typically need a master's degree and teaching experience. According to the BLS, the 2018 mean salary for elementary and secondary school administrators was $98,750 a year, with an expected 4% job growth from 2018 to 2028.

Deans of students typically provide support for college students and plan and implement social programs that enrich the college experience. A master's or doctoral degree is most often required for this position, and job prospects in the field are expected to increase through the year 2028.

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