Bascom Hall on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Working for your alma mater can open up a career path you never knew existed.
Three years ago, I was a college senior grappling with what I was going to do when I graduated in two months. With little direction, I went through the motions of the job search, but never left an interview sincerely hoping I would receive an offer.
Then, I interviewed at my alma mater. The role combined my love for technology, communication and teaching in a way I had not seen before. It was a perfect fit. Time has flown since that first day on the job.
But, one thing’s for sure: When I was a senior, I never considered working in higher education. Here are five reasons you should consider what I initially ignored.
1. Higher education is not just for professors. You don’t need a Ph.D. to work at a college or university. In addition to faculty, institutions need staff for a variety of roles. From public relations to project management to human resources, there are opportunities in a number of fields. Universities have media offices, finance departments, and may be developing cutting-edge programs in an area of interest to you. You might be surprised by what sort of positions you find once you start looking.
2. Develop your skill set. A typical university position will involve working across numerous departments with all types of people. This exposure to new situations and responsibilities will hone abilities you might not have realized you had. Carmen Sauls is a recent graduate and admissions counselor at Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Sauls says her new role in higher education is perfect for building a foundation needed as a young professional. “It’s exciting for me to help shape the future of this place, but it’s also a great stepping stone to other careers,” she says. “Whether or not that may be in higher education, I’m developing a variety of relevant skills from time management to presenting.”
3. Increased access to cultural offerings. Does it feel like there’s a never-ending calendar of events to attend on or near campus? It’s probably because there is. Universities always have things going on, and colleges intentionally bring in expert speakers and create community programming. Whether it’s a classical concert, panel discussion or volunteer event, working in a university environment opens you up to enriching experiences. You may even find yourself more inclined to take advantage of some new ones.
4. Universities run more like a business than you may think. It’s an interesting time for higher education. There are questions about the value of a liberal arts degree and the effectiveness of online learning, as well as the overall economic viability of the traditional university model. Institutions are under increasing pressure to make choices that position them for the future. Do you want experience managing a budget or demonstrating your position’s ROI? Whether you find yourself working in an academic unit or an administrative department, you’ll be challenged to make smart decisions and work effectively.
5. Be a part of something bigger. Most institutions are not-for-profit. In addition to awarding degrees, universities work with a greater mission in mind. “Job satisfaction is more than a paycheck,” says Elizabeth Marsh, a fundraiser at Wake Forest University. “It’s knowing that the work I am doing provides opportunities for others to grow and make an impact in the world.” Whether it’s working in a fundraising role, managing a residence hall or advising students, you can believe in what you’re doing. In fact, you’ll be able to see your work in action by simply walking around the campus.
Interested in higher education but don’t know where to start? Get a read on industry culture by browsing The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside HigherEd or #highered on Twitter. Reach out to administrators on your campus to find out more about their responsibilities. Check out higheredjobs.com to see what may be available. Before interviewing, be sure to learn more about a university by reading its strategic plan or talking to an alumnus or student.
Universities help students find their passions and places in the world, and often enrich the surrounding area. It’s exciting to be a part of that institutional community. Add higher education to your list of options to explore.
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