Jobs in Academic Advising – Tips to Find One

academic advisingAcademic advising is a job path found in universities, colleges and high schools. The advisors are drawn from all different walks of life; the requirements to apply are generally fairly low key.

Most schools want advisors who at least have a degree in something, sometimes a master’s and sometimes experience in higher education that doesn’t have to be related to academic advising at all.

Academic advising is the practices of people helping students decide on the best path for their studies. Academic advisers in colleges and universities generally take up one ‘section’ and advise undergraduates on how best to proceed in their education.

This can involve everything from meeting new and prospecting students, advising students at orientation, meeting students continuing on in their major, working with students on entrance requirements and working with graduation contracts to make sure students are able to graduate at the end of their studies.

One part counsellor, one part guide, academic advisors are an important tool for students and a great way to improve the odds of success during school and after graduation.

What to Expect in Academic Advising?

Academic advisors have a pretty full schedule, but it’s one that is always in motion. Academic advisors work with students daily, even in the summer to some extent, and that means dealing with all different personalities at different points of the day. In the summer, advisors have a little more free time-they concentrate on working with prospective students and getting ready for orientation, plus working with students to manage their schedules, including aiding students who haven’t yet passed a requisite course and need help.

In October and April, when students are choosing courses for the next term or looking at graduation, the workload generally increases, with lots of meetings and helping students deal with their course load, potential course load and their grades.

Academic advisors not only have to be organized and knowledgeable about what students will want, they have to be ready to be a shoulder to cry on! Many students end up panicking about their grades and course load and the advisors are often the ones to hear about it. The best traits for academic advisors are the ability to be flexible, to be organized, to be able to prioritize on the fly, and to be detail oriented. The best advisors are able to judge immediately whether or not something needs to be addressed and then how best to do it.

Advisors have to work with a lot of paperwork, all of it important to someone, and they have to know what they’re doing and be able to communicate that to others. And finally, they have to able to juggle the worries of many students and still make sure that each student feels important. A tall order, but one many people will thrive on and enjoy.

Qualifications to become an Academic Advisor?

Surprisingly, though the job is a fairly intensive one, the qualifications may not be quite so bad. They will vary from school to school of course, but generally speaking, you can expect the following:

  • You will need post secondary degree in something (probably won’t matter what)
  • You will need some experience in post secondary education (in any way, not just advising)
  • You may or may not need a Master’s degree

Personality wise, you should be both caring and detail oriented, organized and able to put things aside as needs be if an emergency comes up. You may also want to consider looking at some student development theory and connect with professional organizations related to your field so that you can get some knowledge that is specifically related to your field. You may even want to get an education in academic advising to really boost your job chances.

Academic advising is not going to be the career path for everyone. It can be very stressful, it’s high energy and it requires a lot of hard work. You have to ready to be on top of any situation, be ready to help panicky, annoyed, confused or overexcited students, and make sure you know everything you need to know about the programs offered through your school, including the different loopholes and ‘backdoors’ so to speak, then be able to pass that knowledge off to students in a coherent fashion. It can take a lot of getting used to and a lot of work, but it can also be a very worthwhile and rewarding job for the right people. If you enjoy helping others and want to stay in the education system, then academic advising may be just the right fit for you.

About the Author:

Lena Paul is a medical school graduate who is an enthusiastic blogger and holds an editorial position in PrepGenie, a test prep provider that offers exam preparation courses for GAMSAT, PCAT, LNAT, UKCAT and UMAT.