Career Center

Careers in Academic Administration

This is an archived conversation and not actively maintained.
[Learn more about WRK4US and The Versatile Ph.D., its replacement resource] <link to P7B22>

Hosted by Paula Chambers
Edited by Nicole Asaro
June 28 - July 7, 2004

The following Guest Speaker Discussion originally took place on WRK4US in June and July 2004. Because WRK4US has a confidentiality policy, all names and email addresses have been altered or removed, except for the moderator's and the Guest Speakers'.

The discussion can be read in two ways- by simply scrolling down and reading the whole thing, or by clicking on the topical links below, which take you to specific places within the discussion. The discussion can also be printed out in its entirety for your reading convenience.

I. Speakers' Introductions

  • John Hajda
  • Molly D. Roth
  • Peter Stokes
  • Robert Corbett

II. Careers in Academic Administration

A. Routes to Careers in Academic Administration
B. Career Guidance and Support from Graduate Advisors
C. Prior Experience (or a Lack Thereof)
D. Credentials, References, and Getting One's Foot in the Door
E. Finding Job Postings and Networking
F. Dean vs. Provost: Different Roles in Academic Administration
G. Faculty Administrators
H. Degrees in Higher Education Administration
I. Finding Time for Scholarship: Publishing and Teaching on the Side
J. Probation and Job Security
K. Educational Technology in Academic Administration

III. Careers in Academic Advising

A. Academic Advising Salaries
B. Getting Noticed: 'Regular' Ph.Ds vs. Counseling Degrees
C. Entry-Level Jobs and Beyond


John Hajda, Ph.D
Director of Student Services
Graduate Division
University of California, Santa Barbara

Greetings, everyone! It's an honor to be selected as a WRK4US guest speaker. Although I have divulged a bit about myself in previous postings to this list, it might help if I give you a brief, but more organized.

I received my Ph.D in music with a specialization in systematic musicology from UCLA in summer 1999. When I started grad school, I was 100% intent on becoming a university professor. During my UCLA grad career, however, I was active with the Graduate Students Association, which was my school's version of the graduate student government. I had the opportunity to observe program reviews, offer student insight on policies that affected graduate students, and learn about university governance. During the months before I completed my dissertation, I had informational interviews with a number of administrators at UCLA in order to get a feel for whether or not a career in university administration might be right for me. I honestly felt that I could happy as either a faculty member or an administrator.           

For the first eight months or so after completing my dissertation, I continued on in a student position on campus while I looked for permanent work. Due to a burst of serendipity, I landed a job at a dot-com in San Francisco. The pay was great, but I hated the weekly commute and my skills weren't a great fit for the job. My wife and I moved to Santa Barbara for her career -- I was still commuting to San Francisco. Finally, I could see that my job at the dot-com was coming to an end, so I looked for a position in Santa Barbara. I eventually ended up in my current position as Director of Student Services in the Graduate Division at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

One of the things that I like about my job is that I get to wear several hats. For starters, I oversee the academic services unit; we offer advice and assistance to enrolled graduate students, enforce university requirements, intake theses and dissertations, process petitions, finalize degree checks, help run orientation for new grad students and commencement for graduating students, etc. Second, I help graduate students search and apply for extramural funding; I am the Fulbright Program Advisor for graduate students on campus, I send out a weekly electronic funding newsletter, and I do one-on-one funding advising. Third, I work with graduate students on what I call "career discernment." I am not a career counselor, but I try to facilitate opportunities for graduate students by holding panel discussions on alternative academic or nonacademic careers. I also work with a couple of certificate programs for careers in industry and academia. Fourth, I work with reestablishing contact with alumni, with the intent of developing a graduate alumni community and, eventually, fundraising for graduate programs at UCSB.

As you might imagine, I don't have a typical day. It really depends on the time of year. We had commencement in mid-June, and most of my time was spent on that for weeks preceding the ceremony. In the summer, I work on updating and revising policy documents and websites and preparing for the fall. In fall, we have orientation and a lot of funding deadlines. So we hold workshops for numerous fellowships and I am busy with campus interviews for our Fulbright candidates. In winter and spring, we hold career and academic skills development workshops. Then there are initiatives that can happen any time of year. Right now, we are piloting a test program for the filing of electronic dissertations.

I supervise a small staff of career employees and student workers, and I am a member of the Graduate Division's management team. I enjoy my job because, pretty much every morning I come to work, I think about how I can help out graduate students. I still feel connected to academia because I interact with faculty, although not as a peer.

Although everyone on this list has or has had some connection to an institution of higher education, some of you may not be aware of all that goes into making a university run and how the different units interrelate. Therefore, I hope that you will indulge me in the following description of university administration.  I'm sure there are different ways of dividing up the administration world, but I see most roles fitting into one of four categories: academic affairs, student affairs, community relations and administrative/business services.  Academic affairs deals with curricular issues, degree programs, etc. Examples of this include the graduate division/colleges/schools, academic departments (e.g. the English Department), the academic (faculty) senate, office of research/sponsored projects, organized research units, libraries, TA training programs/instructional resources offices, offices that provide tutoring for academic coursework, writing programs, etc. Although faculty "run" academic affairs, there are a number of Ph.Ds who are not faculty who work under them (like me).

Student affairs deals with student life and development and essential non-academic student services. Examples of this would be the counseling center, career center, disabled students program, student government, freshman orientation program, dean of students, financial aid, registrar's office, admissions, women's center, ethnic/multicultural centers, university performing arts program, student health, international student center, museums, etc. Keep in mind that this is a very loose definition of student affairs, and some of these units may well have academic components.

Community relations deals with interactions with those who are not students or faculty or are no longer students/faculty. Examples of this would be the alumni association, development office, athletics department, public events office, public affairs, etc.

Administrative/business services deal with infrastructure and keeping the "business" running. Examples of this would be the accounting office, personnel/payroll, human resources, environmental health and safety, parking, police, the student union, housing, facilities, etc.

Of course, this taxonomy is not perfect. Some administrative units will have functions that overlap categories. For example, an outreach unit might recruit high school students to work in a summer research project with faculty (academic affairs), serve as a branch of admissions (student affairs) or send a performing artist to a local school to help get kids interested in music (community relations). Also some units, such as a president's/chancellor's office or board of trustees will, by definition and necessity for oversight, be involved in all aspects of university administration.

Finally, I have subscribed to WRK4US for over three years. I lurked on the list for a couple of years before I decided to dive in with some observations and opinions of my own. I hope that this discussion will provoke questions from lurkers as well as the usual contributors. Lurking is fine, but I found that active participation is so much more rewarding.



Molly D. Roth, Ph.D
Director of Trustee Affairs
University of Pennsylvania

Dear WRK4US-ers,

I am pleased to be taking part in this new discussion. I've received a great deal of support and inspiration from the list in the short time I've been subscribed and am delighted to think that I might have something to offer in return. My name is Molly Roth and I finished my Ph.D in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in December, but had a professional career before beginning graduate school and have been working in the administration at Penn for the past three years.

When I graduated from college in 1985, I worked for about 8 years in non-profit development--first as a writer for a fundraising consulting firm, then as grant writer for the San Francisco Opera, and finally as Associate Director of Development for the San Francisco Zoo. My initial job qualifications were basically aptitude for writing and editing experience. I was good at the work and liked the organizations I worked for but felt unfulfilled and also saw my prospects for advancement limited (perhaps not entirely accurately) by not having any direct experience/credentials in the programmatic areas.

This is particularly interesting for me to remember now, as I became increasingly focused on an academic career during graduate school (unsurprisingly). Sitting down to write this introduction, I am remembering that initially I was as open to the idea that I would go back into administration in some form after graduate school as that I would teach. Generally, I was clear at the time that I wanted to go to graduate school so that I could spend some more time on intellectual work; have the satisfaction of completing a project of the scope of a dissertation; and obtain the credential. The larger idea of graduate school came first, the specificity of cultural anthropology and African studies came later, based on a kind of audit of my talents and interests.

One summer after I'd been at Penn for a couple of years and wanted to capitalize on my background to engineer a summer job that had a little more to it than proofreading catalogue entries for the rare book department at the Free Library of Philadelphia (as I had done the summer before), I offered my grant-writing services to the Director of Development at Penn's Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. (The Museum houses the Anthropology Department, but is functionally quite independent of it.) I ended up working as a part-time staff member and then freelancer for the Museum in between going to the field, getting married, and having a baby. By the time I left for Mexico to accompany my husband on his dissertation field research trip (he came to Africa with me so it was only fair), I had developed a very good working relationship with this person; she valued my skills and depended on me. In the fall of 2000, she became the Secretary of the University. She hired me for a new position called "Planning Coordinator" when I returned to Philadelphia in 2001. A year later I took over as Director of Trustee Affairs.

My responsibilities in the Office of the Secretary include planning and executing trustee meetings, maintaining board records and governance policies, helping to manage communications to the trustees, helping to identify good prospects for trusteeship and generally helping manage the board (e.g., committee assignments) and support the trustees (e.g., orientation sessions, mentorship, and development strategies), serving as a resource for campus information for the board, and helping to coordinate requests of the board from the rest of the University.

My work life heats up to a fever pitch during the three annual meetings of the full board of trustees, which involve a two- to three-day schedule of events, including 10-12 committee meetings; a public board meeting of record, and a series of special events, and for which I am essentially responsible. I work closely on this with a Coordinator for Trustee Affairs and several meeting planners from the Special Events staff of the President's Office at Penn. Once the meetings are over, I can dig out, think in a larger way about how to improve the meetings, the way we prepare trustees for their roles, etc. I tend to focus a lot on information management and communications because of my inclinations, but someone else doing this job could easily focus on other pieces.

My job provides me with a front-row seat on management and governance at a major research university and I find that a continually fascinating place to be. On July 1, Penn will have a new President and I will have a privileged vantage point from which to watch that leadership transition. I learned more about how a university works in a month in this office than I did in ten previous years of graduate school. (Of course, there's a lot about how the "academic enterprise" works that the administrators don't really understand, too.)

What I miss about academic life is the sense of being a primary producer as opposed to a facilitator of the products of others. I write a lot in my current job "and am appreciated for my abilities" but I am not working out my own ideas for the purpose of building my own scholarly reputation. On the other hand, I have a kind of standing in the University community "with both faculty and administrators" that I never would have as a student, adjunct, or possibly even junior faculty member. The employment benefits are very good and my family has a comfortable lifestyle in a home and neighborhood we love and we are not under the threat of having to leave after a year or 6 years.

I have tried to keep this brief, having had to put it together in a rush since I was traveling last week and only got word that this discussion was set for today very late (due to a little communications glitch Paula and I had). I hope I have given enough information about what I do to suggest further questions, because I'm sure I haven't explained anything very thoroughly. I look forward to filling in the gaps as requested and hope that this may be helpful to some of you in your job searches.

Peter Stokes, Ph.D.
Graduate School Advisor
Office of College Advising

Greetings to all.

When I started graduate school in 1991, at the University of Southern California, I did so because I felt that in studying English I would be able to devote a lot of time to thinking about issues I was fascinated by, and also because it provided a means of moving from a small city in England to much-more-exciting Los Angeles. In 2000 I emerged finally with a hard-won doctorate, and though I did not land a tenure-track job, I did begin the first of two consecutive one-year full-time teaching jobs at Pomona College in neighboring Claremont, CA.

Although I had begun teaching purely to finance studying, by this time I found teaching, not research and writing, the most rewarding part of the job--since it involved direct communication with other people. When I applied for tenure-track jobs one last time, I was privately nervous about getting one, since I was not sure I wanted to move to many of the places where jobs were to be had, and because I dreaded feeling pressure to publish in order to win tenure.

This time, then, the experience of not getting a tenure-track job was one of liberating relief rather than disappointment. At this point I realized that though I was a little scared, I was delighted to feel free to explore other professions. I knew that I liked working with people, especially in an academic or similar environment; I knew that as a teacher and researcher I could boast of very good communication and organizational skills. Deciding I was interested in academic administration, librarianship, museums, or some other non-profit work, I asked family, friends, former colleagues and professors if they knew people who worked in any of those fields. I approached a number of people and was delighted to get many friendly and helpful responses, and many more useful contacts.

It was not hard to meet university administrators;the man who ran the program I had taught in as a grad student was himself someone who had chosen to take that job rather than a job as a professor, for example. He suggested that advising was a good first job in administration, because it provided familiarity with a number of different issues that face students as they go through the university system. I applied for some advising positions at various different schools in the area; I also met with a friend of a friend who was an advisor at USC. Though I was not hired initially, it turned out I had showed up just at the moment when a new position was being created at USC: that of advisor for students interested in applying to graduate school. The fact that I had taken the trouble to meet people in the office, and (re)connect with other people in the university friendly with that office, doubtless helped get me on the shortlist for that job, which I was given.

Being an academic advisor involves staying in close contact with students, and provides the satisfaction of helping people on a daily basis. I meet with students individually to discuss their plans, which are varied and often interesting. I also put on workshops, drawing on my teaching skills to help large groups of students, or arranging and publicizing talks by guest speakers. This being a new position, I have had to invent it--a task made considerably easier by my extremely helpful fellow advisors, and excellent, relaxed-yet-efficient boss. I did a lot of research, finding resources for graduate applicants and soliciting advice from people who actually handled graduate admissions. I drew on my writing skills in preparing a lot of printed handouts and putting together the content of a website. In spreading the word about what I do I have met more Deans and department chairs than I ever saw as a teacher; I have also networked with advisors and administrators in departments across the campus, and also with recruiters from other campuses.

The experience of working in an office with my fellow advisors--who (unsurprisingly perhaps, given the nature of the work) are universally cheerful, generous, supportive and fun--has been very new and surprisingly pleasant, after the irregular hours of teaching and researching. Sometimes it seems odd and frustrating to have to be in the office during less busy periods, and yet it is also a delight now to go home and not take work with me. For a while I had lingering feelings of guilt that I was not doing research at the weekends; this feeling disappeared fairly quickly. Many advisors seem to find the job insufficiently challenging after a few years (the same problems tend to repeat themselves), and there is a fair amount of turnover--but it seems to be a good jumping-off point in the university, and certainly a way to connect with a lot of different offices. While many of my colleagues are pursuing degrees in educational administration or counseling, my own plan is to go to library school (actually, to do it online as I work)--and ultimately move on to a position in an academic library.

I'd be delighted to share more about my experiences as an advisor, and as someone seeking to change careers, so please feel free to ask questions.

All the best,


Robert Corbett, Ph.C
Coordinator of New Programs
University of Washington


I am glad to speak to this list, as I have learned a number of things from it in the years that I have been on it. I actually joined the list after I obtained a job working for university administration. Instead of leading to a job, what it has helped me learn about is the "lore" of working in a bureaucracy. It's also helped me see how this position, as well as my graduate training, could help me in other positions and thinking about my career path in general. I have some small hope that I can provide a contribution to this aspect of the list.

I decided to go to graduate school in the first place because it was the only place I knew of to discuss the issues and do the work that I wanted to do. My primary interest was in researching and discussing literature at a level of complexity that isn't reflected in most literary journalism and cannot be a part of high school teaching. But nearly as important was my interest in theory--that Marx-Freud-Lacan-Foucault beast that looms over us in the humanities. I chose my first graduate school on that basis, as it was an up-and-coming location in the US for cultural studies, but not of the kind that turns into sociology and media studies. My interest in literature remained "literary" and my take was that it doesn't simply reflect society.

All of which doesn't take into account that a lot of the work for a graduate student in English is teaching composition. While I understood that going into academia meant becoming a teacher, it still seems that departments do not adequately advertise the fact, nor does the profession in general actually reward teaching. There are many things to say about this, but it is a structuring contradiction of the discipline about which there is much "unthought." More than anything, this was the reason I started to think that academia wasn't for me.

In any case, this judgment is hindsight and was peripheral to my experience in graduate school, particularly since I enjoyed and was engaged by scholarship. I excelled at the study of theory and literature there, but struggled with teaching. teaching. Thus, once I finished my exams, I wanted to make time for my dissertation. There is a qualitative difference between doing coursework and doing a dissertation, at least for me. One simply needs more time. Also, good teaching often draws on the vary same resources that good writing and research do. So I decided to find temporary, part-time work while I completed this dissertation, thinking it would be less distracting.

I am lucky in that I have always had worked while I was in school and in summers. I have done everything from picking garments in a Polo factory to copy-editing reports on the use of the national parks. I am also lucky in that I learned to touch-type in high school and have always been a quick study when it came to computers. So, office skills and being in an office are not anathema to me. I was also lucky that Seattle had about 2% unemployment at the time of my decision, so it was easy to get temporary work at the university. I held clerical and secretarial positions in departments and offices for about two years, as well picking up some readerships for film classes. I came away with two realizations about my work as a university temporary. One is that it gave me satisfaction to be part of a team and to be of service to faculty. The other is that university staff were uniformly nice and supportive to work with and for. I also didn't hide my talents under a bushel and occasionally got work that more in my "skillset" than compiling excel spreadsheets and doing mailings.

I did not set my sights on getting a staff job, since I was still on a track to finish and go on the job market, even as I heard the war stories of my peers. I also agreed with my last supervisor that a receptionist position would not agree with me as permanent job. So it's very fortunate that the opportunity to work with someone in the Provost's office on two administrative searches, as well as to help organize the work she did on the curriculum at the UW. The work I did with her felt almost naturally to follow what I had thought of myself doing. (I may not be believed when I say event planning does this, but it's the case for me.) Through a series of steps that don't bear repeating, I became Coordinator of New Programs at the UW. This position combines almost perfectly the amount of secretarial and administrative work with more unspecified research and presentation work. My main task is shepherding new undergraduate proposals through faculty and state approval, as well as coordinating state approval for graduate school. I also update the state's coordinating board and the other public baccalaureates on our plans, in order to assure that there is no unnecessary duplication of academic programs, and track developments in academic policy from the state coordinating board. What has been most interesting in my job is working with university committees on changing academic policy. This work comes the closest to my work as a student. It's actually a relief in many ways also to have a discernible goal in this work, and to realize that you are not alone in working on a project.

I realize, too, now that my work in our graduate student senate, as well as with our departmental graduate student organization helped develop my talents and interest in this work. (Teaching is in there as well, though distantly). I am continuing with this work by becoming secretary for our professional staff organization. At this point, I also feel like I am still learning and still growing. The pleasure (and sometimes frustration) of my position is that not every assignment can be listed in the job classification. But this is a good thing, since I believe you get better work out of folks who are not simply one thing.

To this date, I have not finished my dissertation, though I have plans to. This is perhaps the major downside of working as a staff person. You don't realize how the unstructuredness of much time you have as academic aids research until you take a full-time, year-round position. The idea of doing scholarship on nights, weekends or vacations isn't appealing, particularly when you are no longer seeing students on a daily basis. Also, I daily think about the future of the university. It seems to me that, as wonderful as a lifetime of teaching and research can be, it may not necessarily be ideal. In some ways, moving from position to position and allowing your skills to take the shape of the next task at hand can be exciting and renovating itself. My own father has had at least three different careers. While such change can be scary--and our society has created barriers to such changes--it almost seems that tenure and the relative distance from ultimate goals that academia offers can also be traps for individual development. If you have to think about changing your life, you often think more clearly and more directly about what you--and not someone else, be it family, society, etc--want out of life.

I think I have gone on enough by way of introduction. This has been interesting, too, in that I have been doing a summing up of my 4 plus years of experience here. But like everybody I learn better from specific examples and the genre of introductions seems to lead me to generalize rather than specify. So, please send me questions, etc.



II. Careers in Academic Administration

A. Routes to Careers in Academic Administration

Question from P.G.

As someone who aspires to move into university administration, I have a few questions I hope our panel can answer.

            Did you go into graduate school thinking that this was the route that you wanted to take? Or were you forced into it by necessity--bad academic job market, tenure track route not for you, etc.?

Answer from Molly Roth

My current position was offered to me and it was too good to pass up (especially since I had not yet finished)--I don't know if that constitutes being forced into it. At the moment, I couldn't afford to take a tenure track teaching position if THAT were offered to me (an absurd proposition, I realize)--but I also don't know if I want that. So I guess I am still trying to come to terms with what is "necessity" and what is "choice."

Answer from Peter Stokes

My answers are similar to Molly's, but I'll give them anyway.

            I went into this area because of necessity and out of choice--I no longer wanted a tenure-track position, which was just as well since tenure-track positions didn't seem to want me. I probably could have stayed in temporary teaching jobs, with a view to trying one more time on the job market--this I didn't want to do.

Answer from John Hajda

When I started graduate school, I considered university administrators to be "part of the problem." But my impression changed while I was in graduate school through my interactions with administrators, other staff, faculty, and students.

Answer from Robert Corbett

I didn't intend to go into administration: the opportunity came to me and I took it. That said, the state of the job market and the kind of job that one would actually get influenced my decision.


B. Career Guidance and Support from Graduate Advisors

Question from P.G.

Advisors groom and train their students to get tenure track positions at top research institutions. They (and universities for that matter) have a vested interest in a student's academic success--that is one of the factors used to rank Ph.D programs. Hence, I was wondering how much support each of you had from your dissertation/committee advisors in your decision to go into university administration?

Answer from Molly Roth

That is a great question! In my case, my advisor was surprisingly hands off with respect to my professional development as an academic. I was really pretty perplexed by this at times (especially given your point about job placement being one of the metrics for department rankings) and would be interested to know what the experience of others on the list has been. I think this was one of the things that disturbed me most about academia, having brought with me expectations from the professional world. The steps an advisor could take to advance students seemed so obvious: introduce them to colleagues, mention their work, and suggest them for panels, contributions to edited volumes, and themed editions of journals, for example, let alone trying to provide some systematic help for grantwriting, fieldwork, etc. But I was essentially left to figure everything out for myself. It is perfectly possible that my advisor believed that this was the best way for someone to learn what she needed to know. I don't think it's due to the fact that she suspected me of not being headed for an academic career track, since, as I mentioned in my introduction, I was convinced I would teach through most of graduate school. (Now I did get some of this mentoring and professional development support from other faculty members at the university and from wonderful colleagues in areas studies associations--and I am very grateful for all of it.)

            When I went to work in the Office of the Secretary, my advisor chose to view my job as a kind of post-doc, from which I would soon emerge with a book contract. Working in the administration put me on a more collegial footing with university faculty than I had been as a student and facilitated several friendships--this may have a lot to do with the fact that as an administrator I became someone who was rooted in the community and committed in a way that graduate students (even when they're around for 20 years!) are not perceived to be. Many faculty were really interested in what I did and interested in the possible careers open to me. As I've mentioned before also, others in the university had much more creative visions of my options. My advisor, however, felt strongly that my degree had a definite sell-by date and if I was not on the academic job market within, say, two years, that door would be closed.

            At my graduate commencement ceremony last month, the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at Penn acknowledged that only about 50% of us would go on to teach and do research and then proceeded in his remarks to talk only about that set of choices (not really a clever strategy for alumni development, among other things). I think the state of the academic job market is an absolute disgrace and I cannot understand why someone would suggest that their students have to become post-doc/adjunct gypsies in order to earn the right to research and teach, rather than working to make the system more humane in whatever ways they can. Sometimes I think that I'm renouncing academia as a protest--but, as I said in my earlier answer, I'm still not quite clear about what is choice and what is necessity.

            Coincidentally, I've gotten some mail this week from Dutch colleagues who are really interested in my dissertation and want me to be part of publications they're planning. Maybe a faculty position is the only means to intellectual fulfillment and affirmation as a scholar.and maybe it's not. Maybe our advisors are sources of thoughtful career advice.and maybe they're not.

Comment from U.H.

On the matter of graduate school advisors encouraging or discouraging graduate students from staying in academia, see the article "Is Graduate School a Cult?" in the current Chronicle of Higher Education (July 2, 2004 issue). Online here (password needed).

Question from V.N.

Anyone know where this article can be obtained by those not having premium subscriber-only access to the Chronicle ?

Answer from J.Q.

You don't need it. Look here.

Comment from M.A.

Advisors groom and train their students to get tenure track positions at top research institutions.

           I'm just curious--is this true everywhere? There are far more teaching institutions than there are research institutions out there. Graduates of my doctoral program generally got jobs (if they got them) at small colleges, regional state universities, etc.

They (and universities for that matter) have a vested interest in a student's academic success--that is one of the factors used to rank Ph.D programs.

            This seems an odd criteria for ranking Ph.D programs, given the job market.

Hence, I was wondering how much support each of you had from your dissertation/committee advisors in your decision to go into university administration?

            I'm genuinely puzzled as to why this should matter at all. If you have an opportunity to pursue a fruitful career in university administration--as opposed to a wasteful career as a long-term adjunct--why wouldn't they be supportive? Is the ranking of their department more important than your happiness and prosperity? If this is the case, and they're not supportive, then why pay any attention to their opinion at all? Don't you know what's best for you better than they do?

Answer from John Hajda

While my dissertation advisor/committee members did not encourage me to go into administration, they did not discourage it.

            The issue of support for Ph.Ds who are looking into nonacademic careers is important. In the case of the arts and humanities, many faculty who are sympathetic to such life decisions are not equipped to really help. At least this has been my observation. So that is why it is so important to have mentorship, if not from your faculty advisor, then elsewhere on campus. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent career counselor at UCLA who had worked with many Ph.Ds who were looking into nonacademic careers. She was able to help me in ways that my advisor could not (as opposed to "would not"). However, many universities don't have career

counselors specializing in serving the unique needs of graduate students. That's what makes WRK4US so valuable, in my opinion.

Answer from Peter Stokes

With regard to M.A.'s comments and P.G.'s question about support from the dissertation committee, I found that I did get useful support, advice, and contacts from faculty once I let them know my decision (perhaps this was easier because I had been adjuncting & had already applied for tenure-track jobs a few times?)--though as John (Hajda) suggests, a lot of the most helpful advice came from other sources. For me possibly the hardest adjustment was in my own attitude--getting over my prejudice that nobody smart and interesting worked outside of teaching/researching, and that no other work was fulfilling--and that I wasn't qualified to do much else (ideas now thoroughly dispelled). Reading the book So What Are You Going to Do With That? by Basalla & Debelius helped with that, incidentally.

Answer from John Hajda

I think that some of the doctorate-granting institutions understand that a number of their doctoral recipients will go on to what I call alternative academic careers. In my neck of the woods, this would be California community colleges, the California State University system (which is distinct from the University of California system) and private liberal arts college and universities. Before I arrived, my campus established a certificate program in college and university teaching (, in order to help train doctoral students for these types of careers. Also, every year or two, my office organizes panel discussions with faculty from these institutions. Many of the panelists are alumni and alumnae from my campus.

            As I stated before with nonacademic careers, many faculty who are happy to see their students get jobs at colleges and universities that are not doctorate-granting institutions are not trained to advise students in a helpful way. (BTW, see this website to find the Carnegie classification of institutions of higher education.)

            M.A. brings up an important point. It depends on how you define "supportive." When I read the word "support," I'm thinking of someone who can help me learn more about a career path, advise me on additional training that I might need, connect me with important people, let me know about job opportunities as they come up, advise me on how to construct a competitive application, etc. In the case of university administration careers, some faculty members may actually be able to help. Our Dean and Associate Dean still supervise dissertation research. However, my dissertation advisor did not have any administrative experience outside of the department and a couple of university committees. It is nice if your faculty mentors are encouraging, sympathetic and understanding. But meaningful, high-quality support is harder to find.

Comment from L.B.

On the point about advisors and "supportiveness," I think someone (sorry, can't recall who) made a good point about there being a difference between--essentially--passive support and really engaged, systematic active support of introducing you to people, creating opportunities, etc. My advisor was certainly not opposed to the idea of an "alternative" direction; she had done administration of a program herself and at several points passed along to me possibilities of administrative positions within the university where I had finished. But it was on a sort of ad-hoc basis and not very systematic. AND, very importantly, her efforts were in no way supported by the larger departmental structure / culture where I was. That whole apparatus--including all workshops the department held and all activities of the "placement director"--was completely directed toward launching students on their traditional teaching careers.

            It became very clear to me that our departmental culture defined "placement in a job," furthermore, only as getting a teaching job (hopefully tenure-track). When I got the administrative job I'm in now and reported it back to our "placement director" for mention in the newsletter's annual list of "successful placements," I was dismayed to find that when the newsletter appeared, they left me out! Upon review of many back issues of the newsletter, I realized that they had virtually never mentioned as "placed" anyone who wasn't in a teaching job. I pointed this out to several people in the department, and they are beginning to make some changes, but the whole experience made it clear that the culture of thinking about job prospects only in terms of teaching jobs is so deeply ingrained that it is almost unconscious.

            It is in some ways not surprising that faculty don't have much idea about "alternative" careers that are fairly far afield, but to overlook all the opportunities right under their noses on the "staff" side of the university itself seems really shocking! Perhaps the area of academic administration, in turn, is an ideal place to start in widening the field of possible other paths.

Comment from N.M.

I agree with you whole-heartedly about the lack of advising help from the faculty at Penn. The few faculty members in my department who actually mentored their students chose only a few students to work with. The others were very hands-off. I think it's the research focus, myself. Nothing else counts.


C. Prior Experience (or a Lack Thereof)

Question from D.Z.

I'd really like to have some contact with students, so I'd like to move to university administration.

            John and Molly, at least, sound like they had experience that related fairly directly to what they do now. What about getting into university administration without those kinds of skills or experience? For my own part, even though I work at a university, as a staff person, I'm pretty isolated from students, academic policy, government policy, etc. As an example, right now I'm working on an application to enable grad students to register online. That's a long way, however, from actually being part of the registrar's office or learning the rules of that office. So how can one bridge to university administration without any real experience, and in my case, without having to leave a current job to go get that experience?

Answer from Peter Stokes

My advice would be to network with people in offices where you would like to work--if you know people there or know people who know people there, introduce yourself and ask for an informational interview so you can find out more about what the work in those offices actually entails. In that way you can get to know people there, and also will be better prepared to explain how your skills match up with their needs, even if your work experience has not been directly parallel.

Answer from John Hajda

Since you are already in a university setting, you may be able to network through committees (don't know if committee work is a part of your job description). Many universities offer professional development opportunities through a human resources department (click here to see such training at my university). I would also suggest contacting people on campus who are in jobs that sound interesting to you. Most folks are happy to talk about themselves--kind of like what I'm doing here.

Would it generally be necessary to start at the bottom and work up?

That depends on so many factors. I would say that if there is an opening for a job that you could do and want to do, then apply for it regardless of whether it is at the bottom, at the top, or somewhere in between. On at least two occasions I have interviewed a candidate for job A. They were very impressive but we offered job A to someone even more qualified. However, job B came open, and the candidate who wasn't offered job A, was offered job B.

Question from D.Z.

Will it be easier, given that I have a Ph.D but little teaching experience, to get into a position on the student side as opposed to the academic side? The vice provost I spoke with yesterday, and the comments here from our guest speakers lead me to believe that you need to have had real teaching experience to make it into the academic side, i.e., no one is going to be an academic dean or in that chain who lacks teaching experience.

Answer from Robert Corbett

Typically deans move up from the ranks of faculty, either inside an institution or outside. The same goes for provosts and, for the most part, presidents. I know that in some units, assistant deans and even associate deans can come from the outside, although they usually have some academic credentials. It's much easier to go through teaching. One of my truisms of academia (I have thought of writing a successor to Hazard Adams' The Academic Tribes as some of its advice is dated now, but a lovely book nonetheless for those crossing this particular rubicon) is that folks who have gone through all the rigors of academia (grad school, job-hunting, tenure, etc) are more accepted by the institution than those who have not. There is always a danger that upper admin will be seen as "political"--as indeed they have to be in order to represent the university to the outside--so academic credentials have a way of curbing that tendency.

            I had some thoughts, laterally as it were, on your job situation, though. I think your expectations are a little high, since people almost never move into provost, dean, or director positions without having spent time in a subordinate position. I was functionally staff support for the person who did my job before, which included things like creating access databases for our searches. And people who become directors quickly usually invent the position themselves, either through fundraising or having that one idea that catches someone's eye. (I'm thinking of things like a women's center.) People in general work their way up in institutions like universities, so I would aim for staff assistant positions.

            I wonder too whether you could leverage your computer skills to get a position that deals with students more. That seems to be your priority, as much as anything. Pursuing a master's education technology also might be a way to leverage your skills. I don't know what your situation is like, but most staff positions include free classes. Finally, I recommend getting involved with your institution's staff organization and attempting to get on university committees. That's one of the best ways I know of to network amongst staff and also begin to form a community for yourself, which is also a way of figuring out where you might go next in the university. Sorry for going on so long, but I hope this is some help.

Comment from D.Z.

Thanks for the advice, including specifics for me. I didn't really suppose that I'd go from software engineer directly to dean. I don't even know enough about what being a dean means to be able to say if I'd want to do that (which might be a helpful topic for our guest speakers to address: what do directors, deans, provosts, etc. really do?). The only goal I have in terms of level of position is to not take a 20-30K pay cut to take, say, an Advisor I or Admissions Clerk position first, in order to get to director, academic advisor, or director, Graduate Admissions Office. I'm hoping there's a middle ground. Typically, most university jobs I've seen, whether here at APU, or at big places, e.g., UC Berkeley, still fall into the 30-40K bracket. That means, by the way, rightly or wrongly, that even in academia, programmers get paid way more than their peers typically, irrespective of difficulty of work (the "software mystique" I suppose). What that means in practical terms is that moving out of IT will, so far as I can tell, almost require a substantial pay cut, though Molly, who knows more about this than I, suggested it might not be that bad a situation.

            I like the idea of instructional technology. Unfortunately, my university only offers a program geared to people who already teach elementary school.

Question from D.Z.

It sounds like John went straight to a director's job. Molly, on the other hand, started lower. I'm not sure about Peter. Would it generally be necessary to start at the bottom and work up? That is, do I need to leave my software engineer III job in my school and become a file clerk for the registrar in order to move in that direction? If not, how might one go about becoming a competitive candidate for a higher-up position?

Answer from Peter Stokes

I didn't go straight into a director's job (I would think that's unusual); I didn't start as a file clerk either, though. Most of the people we hire in advising seem to have done something related, though not necessarily full-time. Some have been orientation advisors (students who help us out in the summer during freshman orientations), for example. I think though that as important as the experience was just the fact that having those jobs meant that the people hiring them had heard of them.

D. Credentials, References, and Getting One's Foot in the Door

Question from N.M.

This question is mostly for Molly, although please chime in anyone. I've just graduated with a Ph.D. in Sociology at Penn and am working at the University of Kentucky in a research staff position. The discussion on this list inspired me to look at the UK job postings and there is a fabulous job open in the administration here I would love to have. My question is about your suggestion to call the hiring officer. Since I've been hiding out in academia rather than applying for jobs for most of the last decade, I have no idea what I should say! Do I just say here's who I am, this is why I'd be great for the job, I really want it? Details, please! Selling myself is not a skill I've developed -- I guess it's time.

Answer from Molly Roth

That's exactly what I'd suggest. (You may have been hiding out, but I think your instincts are right on.) Occasionally, you'll reach someone who isn't open to having that kind of conversation as a first step, but I know that I and many others welcome it. You should not only describe how you've gained the skills they're looking for in your academic career to date, but why you're better qualified because of it.

Answer from Peter Stokes

I agree wholeheartedly with Molly. I might also ask some questions about the job, to demonstrate your interest--and when you get your answers you can explain how those elements of the job suit your set of skills well.

Question from D.Z.

Since I already have a job, and at a university, it wouldn't make sense, I think, to quit this one in order to take a lower one to become more qualified for a university administration job. Instead, I wonder if there are extracurricular types of activities at a university that a non-student can participate in that might help in seeking an administrative position, or if the connection there is too tenuous for it to be worthwhile expending the extra energy.

Answer from John Hajda

There are many extracurricular activities. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following:

    Volunteering for commencement or some other campuswide event
    Campus Toastmasters group
    Successful completion of HR management training programs
    Committee service

            Of course, all of these are additional time commitments.

Question from John Hajda

I have a question for the other speakers, based on a recent WRK4US discussion. What roles, if any, did resumes/cover letters play in you getting your jobs? For me, my impression is that the resume/cover letter was crucial to getting my first interview--I didn't know anyone in the office at the time--but was not at all important in my next two interviews, as I was an internal candidate.

Answer from Peter Stokes

My experience would confirm what you wrote--I think that my resume/cover letter got people interested to begin with, before I'd met people in the office. Also, having been involved a little in the process of hiring, certainly resumes and cover letters are very important--a cover letter that outlines skills and goals that fit in well with the office really helps someone stand out. But if someone is already known to people in the office, personal recommendations seem to be what matter above all.

Comment from John Hajda

Yes, we haven't talked about recommendations. When I applied for job A at my current employer, I sent in my list of references, because I knew that my current employer would recognize these names. I also dropped the names of one or two of my references into my cover letter.

            I've found that subtle name-dropping makes a difference when I am reviewing applications as well. If an applicant lists a reference at another institution who is in the graduate college/division/school or lists someone whom I happen to know through other means, I am more likely to interview that applicant.

            Really, there is a whole art to "cultivating" references, and it applies as much to university administration jobs as it would to jobs outside of universities. The difference is that folks who are on this list may find it easier to cultivate references at a university. When I was active in the graduate student government and then doing informational interviews my last

year at UCLA, I was unknowingly cultivating references.

Answer from Robert Corbett

A resume/cover letter played no part in my getting my job, as I was already a known quantity from having done a long temporary stint for the office.

Answer from Molly Roth

Since my first job, my progressively more responsible positions have always depended at least as much on personal relationships as on resume/cover letter. My case is at one extreme, but it does make me think that networks are tremendously important. One has to pay careful attention to letters and resumes (they have to be solid foundations for your application), but I don't think one should ever rely on them exclusively for a job one really wants. Never be afraid to pick up the phone. Even if the hiring officer doesn't talk to you, you've lost nothing. But there is absolutely no paper replacement for an enthusiastic, intelligent, thoughtful personal impression. Connect the dots and send the resume or apply on line, but then keep calling and writing until you've got your interview or they've chosen someone else.

Question from O.T.

To extend this discussion, I often wonder what to do about giving names of faculty members as references for non-academic jobs. Did any one (all?) of the guest speakers use their advisors as references for administration jobs? What other references are given serious weight? Given that we've all spent a lot of time in academia, does that experience tend to outweigh the need for references?Answer from Molly Roth

If you've done administrative work for a faculty member--as a research assistant or having helped to coordinate programs, for example--use him or her as a reference. Otherwise, I would not. When faculty members signed off on your dissertation, they attested to the quality of your research and, unless that's what your prospective employer wants to hear about, give him or her the names of people who have direct experience of your performance of the skills you're promoting (who might also be faculty members, of course, but not your advisor or committee members).

Answer to from John Hajda

I would echo what Molly said. I did not give the name of my research advisor when I applied for administrative jobs. I gave the names of administrators with whom I had worked when I was a representative of the graduate student government.

            Depending on the impression that you make during the interview and the level of competition for the same job, references can be the difference-maker. Perhaps you did extracurricular activities when you were a graduate student--things beyond teaching and research. Think of the committees on which you've served, nonacademic student jobs that you've held, volunteer activities. The people who supervised you for those activities may be more effective references than a research advisor or member of your dissertation committee.

            In my division, we don't check references until we've narrowed our lists of finalists down to one, two, or three candidates. Sometimes we'll call people who are not on the reference list, especially if we don't get the information that we need from the listed references. The references must be able to speak to how you will perform in the job under consideration, not just how you performed on an unrelated research project.

Comment from John Hajda

One thing I just noticed: Molly, Peter, and I all include "Ph.D" in our email signatures.

In my job, it is definitely to my benefit that I have a Ph.D, and letting people know about my degree helps me do my job better.

Comment from P.G.

I, too, do the same in my official email exchanges with students and other university people. It brings up an interesting point. Professors with Ph.Ds can be addressed as "Dr." or "Professor" (although I know a lot who prefer "Professor"). Deans have the luxury of all three titles, plus being addressed as "Dean X" sounds more formal and has the added benefit of authority. For those of us with Ph.Ds in university administration, but not on faculty, all we have to go by is "Dr." and sometimes that gives us the authority we need to handle problems to the satisfaction of students (even though we know we are just staff).

Answer from Molly Roth

John, as to putting Ph.D in my signature block, I had to laugh at your observation because I added my degree within about five minutes of depositing my dissertation.and someone noticed almost as fast! I can't help feeling like it's mostly vanity.but it's certainly a distinction that matters. Since I was in this job before receiving the degree, some people have assumed that finishing my program meant that I already had one foot out the door (that with this added credential I would surely be on to grander things). Generally, I have to say it wins me respect and admiration. (I have gotten particularly enthusiastic comments from university trustees, actually.) On my side of the "house," a Ph.D has no obvious relevance as a job qualification and it may be that it means more to people because of that superfluity/excess. I already know what I need to know about university governance, high-level volunteer management, communications, etc., so a Ph.D in Anthropology serves mainly to add dimension. It is also true that I have some authority when talking about academic programs--but, honestly, I'm not sure that I have more authority on these matters as a Ph.D than I did as a senior graduate student for people who already knew me. I have to assume that for people I'm corresponding with for the first time, those three letters get me some added credibility (maybe in addition to striking people as pretentious).

Question from F.A.

This is a question for Robert Corbett. You mentioned that you did not complete your dissertation, and I note that you sign "Ph.C" after your name. I had never seen this, so I looked it up to find it stands for Pharmaceutical Chemist, but you did not mention that in your introduction. Just curious about how you use it.

Answer from Robert Corbett

Ph.C is a distinction that the UW confers upon students who have passed their exams. It probably is more informational internally than externally. I add it in the hopes that people won't "Dr." me, but also as an indication of the work I have done. I might not use it if I was

elsewhere, precisely because of the confusion it incurs, but with luck I will change the C into D at some point, too.

Answer from John Hajda

At my school we use C.Phil.--Candidate in Philosophy--for the same distinction. Maybe that's a more familiar notation.

            I think this raises a point for what you put on your resume. Many people with advanced degrees know what Ph.D, MD, JD, MBA, MA, and BA stand for, but do they know MM (master of music), MFA (master of fine arts), or DA (doctor of arts)? If you have an uncommon degree, it is probably worth spelling out in your resume.E. Finding Job Postings and Networking

Question from O.T.   

I would like to ask the guest speakers about resources for job openings or postings on campuses. I know that the Chronicle for Higher Education , for example, posts administrative jobs, but these seem to be fairly high level, and the list is certainly not complete. I also know there are jobs listed on university web sites, but I wonder if people are really hired through these. Do most people get these jobs through networking? Or is there some job listing service for administrators to consult?

Answer from Peter Stokes

Another possibility for searching for positions online would be to go through the websites of professional associations. Mine is NACADA (National Academic Advising Association); you can find their positions listed, and a list of other places to look for jobs here.

            Just looking online seems like an unpromising route, however. Certainly I would pursue building your network rather than simply filling out applications online.

            My own job I kind of got because I applied to a job online that turned out to be more or less already filled, only to be considered for another job I was better qualified for--but I also did make an effort to get in touch with people in the department, which I think helped cement my chances of being hired.

Answer from John Hajda

I would imagine that folks get jobs in every conceivable way. Here's how it worked for me--follow closely or you'll get lost :-)

    I applied for job A with my current employer. I found out about job A through the standard HR job listing website. I was interviewed for job A, but my employer had an internal candidate, and job A was offered to and accepted by the internal candidate.
    When the internal candidate took job A, it left a vacancy for job B (his old job). My employer informed me that I couldn't have job A, but I could have job B, on an "interim" basis. I accepted interim job B.
    A few months later, my employer had a search for my interim position--job B. I applied for job B, but it was offered to and accepted by someone else from another university (who was more qualified than I).
    Shortly after that, a new position--job C--was created, for which I was made an interim. This would be interim job number 2.
    My employer had a search for job C. I applied for job C, and it was offered to and accepted by me.

            Based on my experience, there is no one path to employment, but I do not think that I would have my current job if I had not already stuck my foot in the proverbial door. Sometimes we hire folks who are moving from within the university and sometimes we hire folks who, other than their time as students, have never been employed by universities. If you think that a non-faculty university career might be for you, I would use every job-getting strategy out there--networking, Chronicle , newspaper ads, university websites, etc. But start by contacting those who are in jobs that you might like to have someday.


Answer from Molly Roth

            I can answer for what I know is true at Penn. I have certainly hired people whose resumes came to me from the HR web site. I also know that it is very important to apply using that means, whatever else you do. HR needs a record of the application. At Penn, an internal candidate can get the name of the hiring officer for a given posting. (If this were true at other universities, you might be able to get the name pretty reliably with a little networking.) This allows a candidate to lobby the hiring officer directly in addition to applying online. I think that telephone manner is tremendously important, and you should never shy away from calling the person doing the hiring, asking any questions you have, and politely but confidently making your case. Cover letters are an important additional reinforcement. To the extent possible, put yourself forward and use every opportunity to make an argument about why you would do a fantastic job in the position. (Most of us who've been in graduate school have done a wide range of things that qualify us for administrative jobs: served on hiring committees, served as liaisons to student government, put together seminars/symposia/panels/conferences, produced publications, written successful grants, advised students, handled logistics and communications for academic programs, etc). Don't be afraid to present yourself as a qualified applicant on the basis of this experience.

F. Dean vs. Provost: Different Roles in Academic Administration

Question from D.Z.

What do directors, deans, provosts, etc. really do?

Answer from Molly Roth

Here's a very summary response based on my experience:
            At Penn, the dean of a school (we have twelve) is like the CEO of a business (or the Executive Director of a major non-profit organization). He or she is responsible--in summary--for meeting all educational and other programming goals and for achieving targets for earned and contributed income. The dean directs the school as a relatively independent organizational entity. The university strategic plan provides a framework, and the dean is answerable to the provost, but he or she essentially decides where the school is going. Here, the deans and their associate deans (undergraduate studies, graduate studies, continuing education, etc.) are members of the standing faculty. They will typically have demonstrated administrative aptitude by running departments (as chairs) or centers (as directors*). Whether or not that experience is adequate preparation is a good question, but typically it is considered essential for people in these roles to have the academic credibility provided by successful careers as scholars and researchers (and possibly teachers).
            Deans, chairs, and directors are the likely candidates for the position of provost. The job of a provost will vary somewhat according to the degree of centralization of a university's administration. At Penn the provost oversees strategic planning, working with the deans on implementing the university's direction, but he does not hold the pursestrings. The deans control their own tuition income and can fund programs from that, although there are naturally some redistributive measures. At a school where income and expenditures were controlled centrally, the provost would have considerably more involvement with respect to specific programs. Here, instead, the provost is responsible generally for the schools, for all additional academic and para-academic units--research centers, arts centers, etc.--and for all academic and student support services.
            *I suggested in an earlier post that I thought new Ph.Ds would be good candidates for Center Director jobs, but guess that I had better distinguish between faculty directors and administrative directors. This division might be represented by the distinction between Executive Director/Director or Director/Managing Director.

Answer from Peter Stokes

Molly is clearly better informed than me on this question--frankly I've never met a provost, though my understanding is that they are highest up the food chain, making high level policy decisions. The deans, all former faculty who, as Molly indicates, have prior administrative experience, seem to be responsible for and set policy (though answerable to the provosts) within their own areas (we have deans of curriculum, of the college, of the professional schools, of faculty--responsible for hiring, and so forth). Directors run smaller units--their own departments, offices or programs. To complicate things there are also associate and assistant deans, who are not necessarily former faculty (some assistant and associate deans are also directors--I guess having dean in their title is a sign of particular distinction, however).

            If this seems a little bewildering, this reflects my own bewilderment--the administration in a large university is a very large, disparate and complicated thing, not necessarily wholly comprehensible even to someone who's been in one branch of it for a while.

Answer from John Hajda

To see a real, live, functioning organizational chart with a provost at the top, download this .pdf file. The provost, deans, and associate deans are faculty.

Comment from R.E.

Was looking on Amazon for books that offer career guidance about academic adminstration and found the following: Books: Understanding the Work and Career Paths of Midlevel Administrators: New Directions for Higher Education . This is an issue of the journal New Directions for Higher Education (#111). So if you have access to a good library, you can just look at it there.

Question from D.Z.

Yesterday, I had a chance to meet some other staff members at my school, including a vice provost, and chat about the path into administration. She talked about the "need" to decide between academic administration and student administration. So I have two questions.

Is going the academic direction, e.g., academic dean, provost, etc. really isolated from students, unless they have an issue over a grade, as compared to the student side, or is this only an issue of the kinds of student issues one deals with? In other words, would I have about the same level of contact as a director of the registrar's office as I would as an assistant provost?

Question from K.B.

Does any of the panel have experience/ knowledge of director of program positions, eg 'director of Global Studies' program or some other quasi-admin, yet also somewhat academic position. I've seen these positions listed but don't anyone who has one.

Answer from Molly Roth

I know several people in those kinds of program director jobs and, depending upon the size of the program (budget, number of employees), I tend to see it as a direct alternative to a first teaching job. The bigger the program, the more administrative experience the dean (or whoever) might be able to require. I think a new Ph.D could easily expect to be qualified to run a small-ish area studies program, particularly if the person had done something like this as a student fellow. I might be wrong about this and perhaps people on the list who've applied for these kinds of jobs know more.

G. Faculty Administrators

Question from P.G.

Most top level administrative positions are available to tenured faculty (say from department chair to a dean). For someone who is not planning the faculty route, are there opportunities for staff to move up some type of administrative track?

Answer from Molly Roth

Provost, vice-, associate-, and deputy-provost, and dean positions at major universities seem to require a teaching career as background (although the complete wisdom of that is certainly questionable). Other positions, including all kinds of vice-presidencies and associate/assistant deanships do not. Also, the paths to all senior positions might be more diverse at other kinds of institutions. Increasingly, there are university presidents who have never taught. For most people, I would think that there were plenty of opportunities for senior administrative roles for someone who had never been full-time faculty--especially if that person had a Ph.D.

Answer from Peter Stokes

I don't know if you're at the same USC as me (Southern California)? I can think of many people in senior positions here who are not and never were faculty, for example in student affairs. Many people in my office who are looking ultimately to advance are enrolled in some kind of graduate Education course, whether a Master's in Administration and Student Affairs, some other Education master's program, or an Ed.D--classes are late afternoon/evening, and they can draw on their work experiences in their academic work.

Answer from John Hajda

I can't speak for all universities--and I definitely can't speak for other types of institutions such as community colleges or private/liberal arts colleges--but there is definitely room for movement both horizontally from one administrative unit to another and vertically within a given unit. In my own administrative unit, my immediate supervisor is the assistant dean. She has a Ph.D and is the highest-ranking member of our staff who is not a member of the ladder faculty. Alternatively, one staff member whom I supervise has a Ph.D. So there are three levels of non-faculty Ph.Ds in the hierarchical organization of our division.

Answer from Robert Corbett

Provosts, vice-provosts, deans, and directors (of academic programs) are more than likely to be tenured faculty. However, administrators always need support staff: anyone who actually did all the work their job entailed would go crazy. Familiarity with academia and a credential help,

but it isn't necessary to have gone through the tenure route. There are also administrative positions in areas such as admissions and others that still are academic jobs.

H. Degrees in Higher Education Administration

Question from S.O.

Given that our speakers all seem to have "traditional" Ph.Ds, instead of degrees in higher education administration (or some variant thereof), I wonder if you could address the relative value of such a degree. Is a degree in higher education administration more appropriate for certain kinds of administration work? Has the lack of such a degree hampered any of you in

terms of advancement? Would you consider going back to school for it?

Answer from John Hajda

My immediate supervisor has a Ph.D in international education, but I don't know what impact that had on her obtaining her current position of assistant dean. I don't feel that my lack of a Ph.D in education has hampered my advancement in the graduate division, so I have never entertained the thought of going back to school for it. I'm sure that I would feel differently if I wanted to do research on graduate education.

            The people that I have seen really advance in administration seem to do so through a combination of competence, success, relevant experience, good networking, ambition and serendipity.

Answer from Molly Roth

I think that in my case--to the extent that anyone thinks about my being a Ph.D--the traditional assumptions about Ph.Ds qualifying people to run universities apply. If you think about it, none of us would find it odd that a dean or a provost or a president had a degree in Classics or Endocrinology or Chinese Literature. The Ph.D establishes someone's familiarity with the mechanics of higher education (possibly in a more integral way than the higher education administration degree does?). Of course, people in these positions also need to have extensive administrative skills, but I don't think that their lack of specialized training in running academic programs is felt as an absence.
            At Penn, the degrees you describe seem to function a little bit like executive MBAs. The people I know who have entered these programs were already established as vice presidents of the university (based on their specific expertise in administrative or business areas). This is just anecdotal, however. I'm sure there are people who have pursued these degrees hoping to get into administrative positions and been successful--I just don't know them.
            I think my Ph.D in Anthropology--together with the knowledge about graduate education and the academic market in general that it provided me along the way--helps to round out what I have to offer as opposed to stamping me as irrelevant. Perhaps that distinction is something we all have the ability to choose for ourselves (and maybe making that choice is at least as significant as the assumptions we are met with, per my first paragraph above).

Answer from Peter Stokes

I haven't yet moved on from my first job in administration, so I don't speak from personal experience--but I would agree with John that what seems to count in advancing is largely job performance and good networking.

            Nevertheless, I agree with Molly too, the "traditional" Ph.D is of value--I would argue just about anywhere, if you can explain how your skills and experiences relate to a new field, but especially in higher education, because you can boast of your great familiarity with various aspects of the university system (in addition to various skills of course--though incidentally you do want to make sure you come across as personable and willing to work as part of a team, and not purely, say, as a solitary researcher).

            Therefore I don't think I'd feel it necessary to go back to school in Education (I'd do it only if I really wanted to study the field extensively)--as it happens I am going back to school though (to do Library and Information Science).

Answer from Robert Corbett

As I see it, you should only do an higher education degree if the subject interests you. But you shouldn't do any Ph.D or practical doctorate unless the subject interests you because you are committing to a lot of time thinking about your particular subject. I think one reason none of

us are doing advanced degrees in education is because we already have advanced degrees. As Molly says, it is no oddity for deans, provosts and presidents to have Ph.Ds in fields from Classics to Fisheries. I think one of the premises of this list is that any Ph.D equips someone with a number of skills that are separable from the particular content of a program. Practical doctorates seem to me more a way of crystallizing and credentializing knowledge that people have already, somewhat along the lines of teachers getting doctorates in Education. They do provide the opportunity for people in the field to reflect and drill deeper on subjects, but they don't seem to be necessary to move around within the university system.

            I do wonder whether having a social science background is a desiderata, at least for getting into the door. Education leadership and policy, from what I understand, seems to be an applied sociology and policy degree focused on education, while knowing SPSS (?) seems to be required for research positions in administration. However, I think of myself working at the nexus of institutional research and university relations. It might be a prejudice of mine, but I think a humanities background is better for the latter. Finally, I think library science and policy programs might be a better way to leverage what you learn working in administration. Rather than focusing narrowly on higher education management, you can study how it runs in parallel. These are the programs I would consider for myself, if only to assure people that I can do statistics despite coming from the humanities.I. Finding Time for Scholarship: Publishing and Teaching on the Side

Question from P.G.

In speaking to other administrators, it seems to me that a lot of them love teaching (myself included), but do not want to enter the academic world of (nowadays) publish AND perish. Do any of you teach on the side (say adjunct at local schools or even at your own) or even publish some stuff here and there?

Answer from Molly Roth
I have several publications in the works. It's hard to find the time, but that seems to be the only limitation.

Answer from Peter Stokes

Basically I don't teach, but I have colleagues who do teach a section in addition to their administrative work--though they did have to make a special effort to arrange this. I have led an informal seminar (as part of a "book salon" program) and acted as a moderator at an undergraduate conference, and occasionally students I've seen ask me to look over a paper they're revising or something; it does not feel like I've left teaching behind altogether. My work also involves looking over statements of purpose--I often still feel like a writing instructor. I've got no burning desire to publish any more--if I did though, I would have the time and energy to do it.

Answer from John Hajda

I taught a graduate seminar in my field in Winter 2002. I was happy to have the opportunity to do it once, but it was a lot of work since I still had to fill all of the requirements of my full-time job. Although I had thoughts of collaborating on a couple of research projects, I have not published since I began working for my current employer in Fall 2000--just not enough time.

Answer from Robert Corbett

I never loved teaching introductory composition, which is about all that you could get as adjunct in Seattle. I have colleagues that have taught interesting, 400-level classes as part of their positions, which would be ideal, but again the more major-specific classes are (and should be)

taught by the faculty. In any case, it would be very odd for someone to teach in what effectively is their spare time. It makes more sense to me to do publishing, since if you want to return to the fold, but if you are not interested in getting a teaching job, I think that trying to publish

in academic venues is an exercise in masochism.

Question from L.B.

I have a question partly coming out of my own two years' experience in a university administrative position:
            Is there any official sanction/recognition/facilitation in any of your jobs for your scholarly research/writing/development (should you choose to pursue it, and I'm aware that not all of you really want to!). What I mean is, do you get any (a) paid time in which to work on your scholarship/research/writing, (b) any space to bring insights to bear in your job that come from your own life as a scholar (i.e. making suggestions about intellectual content of programs), (c) recognition (through either informal or formal means) for any publications you might produce, (d) university funds with which to attend professional meetings related to your area of scholarly interest, etc. I know that a couple of you have mentioned that you have done a little teaching, but I gather this was an "extra" that you had to do on your own time.
            What I'm really interested in knowing is whether there are models for positions that are primarily administrative but that have some official space for scholarship as well. In some sense, I'm wondering if the model used in some libraries, where the professional librarians have "academic" but not "faculty" status and do proceed through a promotion process that takes account of their professional/scholarly activities, etc. might be (or has been) expanded to at least some other primarily administrative positions. Any insights on this--either from your own experiences or your observations of other people you work with--would be welcome.

Answer from Mary Roth

Those are really good questions and I wish I had a more satisfying answer. I work on the honorary degree recipient selection process at Penn and--as anyone who wasn't in Tibet all spring knows--we had U2 singer Bono as our Commencement speaker this year. At one point, we thought we'd put together a symposium on Africa-focused policy issues that Bono would take part in. I sketched out a plan based on my familiarity with the African Studies faculty and programs for social action in Africa both at Penn and in the area generally. The plan was a great hit and it was fun to do, although we did not end up doing the program. I think what I'm trying to say is that I find ways to use my scholarly expertise only incidentally (honestly, the call for knowledge about Mande griots comes up infrequently in the Office of the Secretary)--having it does give me additional prestige, though. My boss has always been very supportive of my career as a scholar. I would not ask for a paid day to work on a publication, but it is tacitly understood that I will sometimes be doing my own work during the day in the office (and this will not be questioned as long as I'm keeping on top of the basic business of the office). I think this is probably mostly because of who my supervisor is as a person, but it's also partly because having that work adds to my value in the office. It's not direct. This office is not going to pay my expenses to go to academic conferences, for example.

            As for the larger question about whether there are hybrid jobs out there, I think the answer is definitely yes, but they may require some strategic entrepreneurship to reach. There are any number of examples at Penn. There are administrators who have substantial scholarly careers on the side (admittedly, not the most attractive option and one that feels like subsidizing the university); there are administrators who have turned their professional expertise (in finance, real estate development, etc.) into an academic capital, there are administrators in academic programs whose scholarship adds to their professional stature. It may take me awhile before someone wants my administrative expertise badly enough to structure a job for me that gives me some kind of academic appointment, but I think I can make this happen for myself eventually (and other influential people at the university seem to agree in principle). I think once we get to know the school/center/program/department/office etc. where we want to work well enough to make the case that such a job would be to everyone's advantage, we can go to work on making it happen.

Answer from John Hajda

This issue has never even come up for me, but I don't think there would be any of the three (sanction, recognition, or facilitation) if I pursued research as long as I also got my work done. This is different from the deans who run my division, who continue to teach and conduct research, although on a reduced schedule.

            I know this isn't exactly what you are asking, but a big part of my job is helping graduate students search and apply for fellowships. To that end, I am recognized for helping their scholarly research, writing, and development.

Answer from Robert Corbett

In positions like mine, the important thing is to get the work done. I bring my experience and learning to the table and see how I can help things move along. But you have to be very flexible about how you see your "real" work. If you are studying higher education leadership and

policy (HELP), you can add your insight from your work, but also do articles based on your work. If you are writing on British romanticism and abjection, as I am, you probably can't directly relate your scholarship to your work. That doesn't mean that you aren't bringing skills to the table, because you are for sure. And since I tend to think that management fields overrate how much they train people--as they have to do, because no one would study management for its intrinsic interest, as they will Blake or quantum physics--I am not sure why someone would

want to study bureaucracy while being in one. But it may be the only way to make your work and your study coincide.

            My university doesn't make any provisions for staff doing their own scholarship, but it does provide generous leave time. And once a professional staff person has been with the UW for 7 years, they can take a hiatus from working for educational and other reasons. You also take a hiatus from your salary, but it's conceivable that you could finish a project then that you had been working on over the years. So there are ways to do scholarship and be a staff person, but it would be unusual to have a position where it was officially recognized as part of your job.

J. Probation and Job Security

Comment from John Hajda

Another aspect of university work that most people don't know about is the issue of probation and job security. At the two universities at which I have worked as a member of the staff, as a new employee I had a probationary period of six months. At the end of that period I received an

evaluation. With a satisfactory evaluation I became protected from termination without cause. (During probation I could be released at any time at the discretion of the university.)

            Surviving the probation period does not make your job as secure as tenure would, but once you survive that probationary period, it is very difficult to fire you, unless you engage in some sort of misconduct or fail to maintain appropriate work performance standards (and this needs to be carefully documented). You could still be put on furlough, laid off, have your position eliminated, etc. But, in general, the job security is pretty high at universities. Even in cases where one is laid off due to budget cuts, that person gets preferential rehiring if a position for which s/he is qualified opens up elsewhere on campus.

K. Educational Technology in Academic Administration

Question from T.K.

Could anyone comment on the role played by IT--eg, Humanities Computing--vis-a-vis higher education administration? Is this considered an arm of the administration, even indirectly, or is it a different animal entirely?

            And to what extent would a humanities scholarly background be valued, along with IT skills, in candidates interested in that path?

Comment from D.Z.

I don't have much to say on the specific subject of humanities computing. That would be separate from, and, to use one of those dumb GRE words, orthogonal to, administrative IT. For example, a few months ago a list member was kind enough to send me an ad for a teaching/computing job that required computer experience and an academic degree, and if I'd had experience more in the specific area(s) desired, I would have applied. For the kinds of positions I see like this, it tends to be the case that the IT experience is more important than the humanities knowledge. Of course, the subset of such things that I have seen may not be representative overall, but there is, for example, a big humanities computing project being carried out by UC Irvine and UC San Diego, and while my Ph.D is somewhat relevant, my computer background isn't quite right to fit in, so while it sounded pretty interesting, I didn't apply. In any event, the kids of things that seem of value for a humanities computing position and an administrative IT job seem to be very different sets. In my job, my Ph.D is irrelevant. For humanities computing jobs, it is very important. For my job, experience with multiple programming languages, tools, and such is really important. For the humanities computing jobs I've seen, it's much more important to have done research/work in the application of, say, multimedia, to the teaching of humanities. Lacking the latter, these sorts of jobs seem well outside my skill range. (We can talk all day about transferable skills, but when a job calls for eight specific experience/skill items, and you haven't done any of them, no amount of transferable skills are going to get you that job--only politics will do that).

            This very subject brings up a question that I have after gazing at university administration openings from my regular mailings from the Chronicle . I see lots of positions that are potentially attractive, but I didn't see a single one for the Registrar's Office that didn't require previous registrar experience, or one for admissions that didn't require previous admissions work or one for advising that didn't require previous advising work or one for instructional technology that didn't require an M.A. in instructional technology. That is, last week, I was thinking, "well, maybe the transition is doable. " After looking at job ads, however, I'm more inclined to see this as "a bridge too far."

Response to D.Z. from John Hajda

Do not read too much into job descriptions! Our job descriptions almost always ask for previous experience. We almost never get applicants with such experience. The bottom line is this: Can you do the job, do it well, and might it help you achieve your career goals? I had never been a director of student services and I had never supervised professional staff before I started working at UCSB.In some instances, a job applicant will not have the prototypical characteristics that are specified in the job description, but the employer is so impressed that it will change the job to fit that person's skills and interests.
Comment from I.C.

I think I made this point when D.Z. was talking about educational technology before, but my general perception is that 'if you can get a Ph.D in a field, then there might be a bit more to it than you initially might expect'. You can get a Ph.D in humanities computing in Europe, you can get a B.A. and M.A. at several institutions in North America. This doesn't mean though that you aren't qualified, it just means that you will have to do some research in order to discern if you fit what they need.


III. Careers in Academic Advising

A. Academic Advising Salaries

Question from G.M.

I have a specific question for Peter. I was wondering if you could give me a general idea of what the salary scale would be for an academic advising position? I ask because I am currently putting together a CV for what appears to be an entry level type academic advising position, and I would hate to put that I require more money than might be reasonable (and they want me to tell them my cut off points).

Answer from Peter Stokes

I imagine salaries for academic advising positions vary according to location and school--but I think I and most of my colleagues started in the low to mid $30,000s per year (it's not really a get-rich-quick scheme). In the case of USC, that does admittedly come with an excellent benefits package.

B. Getting Noticed: "Regular" Ph.Ds vs. Counseling Degrees

Question from K.B.

I am interested in counseling and advising, but it seems that a lot of the job listings require adv. degrees in edu. counseling or education admin. How do your universities accept/respond generally to "regular" Ph.Ds for these positions?

Answer from John Hajda

Well, first of all, there is a difference between counseling and advising. At my university, counselors help students with personal problems, time management, stress management, etc. They also help students find jobs. Advisors help students navigate the requirements for a degree or a fellowship application. Universities offer degrees in counseling, but I haven't seen any degrees in advising (not to say they don't exist). So in my administrative unit, we advise, and one does not need a degree in education, counseling, or administration to do that. It may be a different matter if you applied to our counseling/career services office.

Answer from Robert Corbett

Most of the UW's advisors come from the ranks of graduate students. There are many departments that actually employ graduate students as RA advisors, and our Gateway advising has such positions as well. Advising also is a good first step into the university bureaucracy.

Advisors become very knowledgeable (as one would expect) about student behavior and expectations. They also act as advisors to faculty when it comes to changing curriculum. Finally, advisors will be consulted by administrators seeking to change academic policy across the university. Advisors are "in the trenches" and especially at large research universities have indispensable knowledge about how the university works.


C. Entry-Level Jobs and Beyond

Question from E.M.

I'm very interested in a career in university administration, especially academic advising. Is it worthwhile for me to take an entry-level support staff job in say, a dean's office or development department of my local university (OSU in my case) with the expectation that I could move to a more responsible and higher ranking position reasonably quickly? Or does there exist some danger that that this entry level position might prove a dead end? In other words, should I take a job for which I am overqualified as a way to get my foot in the door (which I wouldn't mind), or should I aim higher?

Answer from John Hajda

At my university, it seems that there are always "academic advising" types of positions available. I just checked out the Ohio State University jobs website at , did a search for all administrative and professional jobs, and found 3 open positions that do academic advising.
            I say, don't sell yourself short. Apply for positions that interest you and you can do. Don't worry about whether or not you fill every requirement listed. Explain in the cover letter why you are interested in the job and why you think you are qualified for the job.

            Getting a foot in the door is fine. People change jobs within universities all the time, but I've seen more instances of people changing offices but more-or-less maintaining similar responsibilities than people changing offices and totally changing job descriptions (in fact, I can only think of one instance where someone totally changed jobs when they changed offices). I guess I am saying that you should make sure that you get your foot in the right door, i.e. in a department and general area that interest you.

Answer from Peter Stokes

As an advisor, I'm not sure that advising is such a lofty position that you should feel you have to work up to it.

            It would probably help to be familiar already with the university you want to work at, to be familiar with procedures, policies, the computer system perhaps--but not essential, you should get training in such areas once hired.

            I agree with John that it's a good idea to get started in the general area and type of work in which you'd like to advance. We have people who have been admissions counselors who are now advisors--but I'm not sure how many people go from development to advising, for example.

Answer from Molly Roth

I want to second John's response to E.M. I think taking an entry-level job in the department you know you want to be in makes a lot of sense, but at a large university someone in the development office might not be viewed as much of an "insider" with respect to an academic advising job.

Answer from Peter Stokes

If you're interested in academic advising, incidentally, you might want to explore some advising issues using the NACADA resources page.

            Of course (to repeat this point yet again, but it is important) the best way to find out about issues in advising would be to find a way to get informational interviews with academic advisors (I did that by just asking people I knew in administration if they knew people that I should talk to about advising).