Job Title: Administrator
Type of Company: A graduate school.
Previous Experience: I had jobs in manufacturing management, consulting and higher education.
Job Tasks: I work as an administrator at a graduate school. I spend time planning, supervising, and rolling up my sleeves to work with students and prospective students.
What I find most rewarding is working with students to help them shape their goals and understand how the school I work at can help them achieve those goals. Every student is different, so every day is different.
Some of my work requires research into how other schools function. I always find this "benchmarking" to be interesting, but it's not the most exciting part of my work; it requires reading and sitting in front of the computer and I would always rather be out of my office talking with people or working on projects together.
I have worked at more than one school, and life is very different at each campus. I find that a school's reputation is not a good predicator of the quality of life as an employee there. I prefer to work in a group of people who respect each other and give each other room to grow. I have found that the more important people think their school is, the less they invest in developing good working relationships with each other. People who work at smaller or less well-known schools don't have to worry about image as much and can take the time to consider each other as human beings.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of working in higher education is seeing people grow and helping them improve their lives. I also enjoy the variety of tasks I work on each day, anything from reading to contemplating to hosting events to teaching.
There are a few hard parts. At most schools, faculty come first, then students, then staff. A good school puts the students first. It can be difficult if staff members resent the fact that they are there to create an experience for someone else...sometimes college professors treat staff as second-class citizens.
Job Tips: It helps to work at a school you know well, or which at least offers a community with values compatible to yours. Every employee at a school is a role model for the students, and it's important to bring enthusiasm to the job.
Take the time to research what career paths are possible. If your goal is to work in student services, for instance, you may need a Ph.D. and teaching experience.
Check out the tuition remission benefits. Can you earn a degree for free? Can your children? That can be worth a lot of money down the road.
Raises are all but non-existent in higher education. Do all your salary negotiation up front, because it's very difficult to jump into higher pay categories without job-hopping.
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